It's the third day of January in my twenty-sixth year when I first see him.
His order is more notable than his face, at first. More notable than his accent, even. Cold brew with a double-shot.
I tap the order brusquely into the tablet in front of me, worrying at my lip as I do.
"...Lot of caffeine, huh?" Smiling weakly as I turn my head to look at him. He seems rough around the edges. Like he's not really even here.
"Jet-lag." He replies curtly. I could have guessed that. New York, and this coffeeshop, sees a lot of accents, generally from immigrants. This part of Queens isn't necessarily a tourist haven.
"Okay, that's three-fifty, will you be paying with cash or card? Or Apple Pay, or whatever." I turn the tablet to him.
He gazes at me for a long while, like he's considering the concept of paying at all.
But before I can make some fuss about the increasingly long line behind him, he starts rummaging in his pockets, counting bills.
"Apologies, love. The money's all the same color," I exhale through my nose at this. Tourist.
It is in this moment, as he's using the corner of the counter to flatten out each individual bill, that I really take a good look at him. I won't lie, he's kinda hot.
In that street-rat kind of way. He's got this absurd blue striped rugby shirt on, under what looks like three separate jackets stacked upon one another. It's cold, sure.
But what kind of grown man doesn't have a winter coat? I then scold myself for being so bourgeois. Some people can't afford a Patagonia or whatever-the-fuck, Mina.
"Right, here's four. Keep the change, love." I have to customer-service stop myself from rolling my eyes at the second 'love' in five minutes. My least favorite English affectation.
"Thanks, dude," I say, fiddling with the change and dropping it into the tip jar, "Name?"
He smiles this boyish, juvenile smile that ages him down from the thirtyish I guessed he was. Some mysterious duality of darkness and spunk in this guy that piques my interest.
I tend to overthink with certain customers, daydream through a shared life story until they disappear out the glass doors. Maybe I see them again, but with the tourists I never do.
"James," he says. He then shuffles down the counter, tapping on it in threes as he waits for his drink. I type the name into the machine, closing out the order.