new barista in the drive-through

“Hi, my name is Darryl, and you know what I get.”

They warned me about him.

I said, “Hi, my name is Elizabeth. I’m new. I don’t know what you get.”

He was dirty. The old truck was dirty, almost as old as he was. You know: man-of-the-soil dirty.

He didn’t answer me, only smiled like I was a small child and zoomed to the next window.

“Darryl!” I hollered and then sighed. Exasperation, in this job… it came as easy as breathing.

I felt bad even noticing the dirt. Did he smell elitism on me, an overeducated child? Did he think me spoiled, maybe let into this job by my connections’ connections? Did he have a sixth sense for how much I paid to whiten my teeth? (Free coffee was getting to be a health hazard…)

Maybe he worked rigs like my young friend wanted to but already knew the drill–knew it so well he never went to school. Maybe he got up early and needed the extra caffeine kick to work fields. Maybe he saw things I never had, lightning so pale it looked blue, seeds springing into gold: corn, pumpkin, sunflower? Maybe he was a professional mushroom-picker–you have to be quick to do that–trained from eyeballs to hands in the intuitive judgment of sprouts and not paid enough, not matter how specialized the skill.

My hands were too clumsy even for the drink I guessed at and handed him through the window without a sleeve (wait, come back, don’t sue me).

He could be a million things, and I never noticed anything except the dirt. It’s hard being the new girl, Darryl. Just tell me what you get.


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