She was a good ten minutes late. What reason was she going to give this time? Traffic? Left home late? Had work? Lost track of time? All of these true. She hated the way the day had begun. She woke up with a sore throat. She couldn’t find what she wanted to wear. And now she was a good ten minutes late wearing what could best be described as “the perfect last-minute find”. Well, all these issues could be sorted out easily: all she needed was a hot cup of coffee, he didn’t really care what she wore and he was used to her late comings. But it was enough to spoil her mood. She hated that café, to begin with. Far from home, did not serve tea and loud and expensive: this wasn’t her idea of a café. Which café serves just coffee? She rarely drank tea but liked to believe that she had the option to order it. And the sad little cookie that came along with the coffee: that just seemed preposterous.
The café sported a deserted look. A plump middle-aged man enjoying his cup of latte was the only other customer. He was so focussed on his caffeine that the only time he denied it any attention was when the woman made some fidgeting noise with her handbag or house keys. He stared at her sweaty face, while she ignored him. His leching was least of her concerns; the guy she was supposed to meet hadn’t even arrived yet and here she was, anxious that she was late and that he might be angry for waiting so long. This was a rare victory for her. She had arrived before him. That was almost as rare as her wish to drink tea instead of coffee. She mused over the lectures she would give once he arrived decidedly late. She rehearsed a couple of lines in her head, determined to teach him the lesson of time management and punctuality.
Half-past twelve. Her throat was feeling better. Her anger had boiled down. The plump latte-drinker was gone. And there was still no sign of him. She called him for the seventh time and for the seventh time the sadistic bitch said that the number was out of coverage area. She was drinking the coffee rather slowly, so she could avoid the glare of the waiter, who was trying to figure out what was this woman doing in the middle of a hot day in this sad, deserted café. He was probably judging the man she was waiting for, she thought, and this infuriated her. Who was he to think anything about her lover? She was in good mind to give him her coldest stare but she had other things to worry about. The sadistic bitch on the phone continued to revel in her restlessness.
Her second cup of coffee arrived. This time, the waiter served it with a smirk on his face. She stared right back at him, her eyes defending her lover’s absence. She kept staring at the door, wanting to catch his sight sooner than anyone else. The coffee did not taste good this time. Or perhaps her foul mood had spread through her taste buds. She blew the froth away as the agonizing wait started killing her bit by bit. She tried his number again. Maybe eleventh time would be a charm? It worked. The number rang for about a minute until it got disconnected as no one picked it up. The sadistic bitch, this time, said he wasn’t picking up and asked her to call again. Damn! Well, at least it was ringing. That could be a good sign. He was probably driving and on his way. Good thing he didn’t pick up. It was never right to pick up calls when driving. What a sensible man, she thought. Funny how anger turned into admiration. And it took only twenty minutes, two cups of coffee and eleven call attempts for that to happen.
As she blew the invisible froth for the hundredth time, she practised several versions of speech in her head. How much that sadistic bitch on the phone irritated her; she called him to hear him, not her. How the waiter always questioned her choice by his smirks; she should not be feeling answerable to anyone but she somehow felt compelled and defensive. How the plump guy kept reading through her restlessness. How agonizing the wait was and what it did to her curious mind that leapt at the slightest trigger. She had finalized every single word and every single emotion of her speech. But they all drowned and faded into oblivion. He was here. And all she could think of was to envelop him in her embrace. Nothing else mattered. Not those speeches. Not the smirk. Not the stare. Not the judgment.