The Lisping Barista finds her people

What a difference a day makes. The rest of the Epiphany Cafe, as well as the general mental health of the Kenilworth area, was far worse after the Therapist Emeritus retired. But the Lisping Barista, on the other hand, seemed well rested, collected, calm, and back to her happy self. She had all her piercings in. Her tats glowed with a vibrancy they have not had since she first got them. She could be overheard singing a song from the Spellbinding Fish Fry. How could this be, after working a double? Was it especially restful, sleeping in her car?

I had to wait most of the day to find out, when she finally had a chance to write in her journal and I had a chance to snoop.

I had underestimated Chai Latte. I thought he was just a slimy drug dealer, but he’s a nice guy. He let me stay last night in his apartment.

Nothing could be more gratifying for me than to see she had the same name for him I did: Chai Latte. But, she’s a barista; why wouldn’t she?

I was really hoping that cowboy dude would show up yesterday. One, I needed him to work his shift, so wouldn’t have to work a double. Two, I would’ve asked for the keys to his place, so I could get some sleep. I was going to make it worth his while, but he never showed up. Then, when I’m done with his god damn shift, I clean up and take out the trash. He’s passed out, shit faced drunk, by the dumpster. I nudge him with my foot. “Wake the fuck up,” I say, but he groans and turns over. “Whatever,” I say. Too late to work for me, anyway.

I was getting ready for another night in the old car, when Chai Latte drives by and asks me, what’s up? Normally, I’m like, fine, keep it rolling. I don’t need to get messed up with a drug dealer’s shit on top of everything else; but every problem, when you look at it in a different light, looks like a solution. So, I tell him I’m having a fight with my roommate. Can I sleep on his couch?

He says, sure, and I say cool; so I follow him over to his place. He shows me the couch and I play him some Spellbinding Fish Fry. He doesn’t even roll his eyes when I tell him the Deep Fries are going to save the world. I must have been tired because the next thing I know, I don’t know anything. I’m passed out on the couch.

When I wake up, he’s playing some shred rock and there’s a bunch of guys sitting around with beers, passing a joint over me. I know them all from the cafe, like I know everyone, but not their names. I’m a little embarrassed because I’ve been sleeping. When I wake up, I slurp a whole gallon of drool from the pillow, but they’re cool. They pass me some weed and offer me a beer.

I’m not big on beer, but I like weed an awful lot. I take both to be sociable. One guy is talking about how he’s been in the hospital. He still has that plastic bracelet they put on you. That’s their mark. His girlfriend had called the ambulance when she found him passed out. Passed out just like I just was and passed out like the cowboy dude. Anyone else would just say, whatever, like I did, or pass a joint over him, like they did, but this girlfriend calls the ambulance and they bring him to the emergency room.

“Bitch,” says one guy. That’s all I ever heard him say, other than “Honduras black”.

Plastic Bracelet Guy wakes up at the emergency room and goes all ape shit on them because he was supposed to have been to work hours ago. He’s on an asphalt crew, which he doesn’t need to tell us about. We can smell it on him. They’re not going to let him out until they ask him a million questions. He doesn’t like that one bit and charges at the security guard, who used to be a bouncer at a tough club in New Haven and probably should still be there.

The bouncer bounces him right back to his room and, in no time, they have three out of his four limbs immobilized. A doctor shoots him up with Haldol and Ativan, but it doesn’t take effect before he lands a right cross on the doctor’s jaw with the one free limb.

By the way, Plastic Bracelet Guy didn’t know they shot him up with Haldol and Ativan, I know because I’ve been shot up with it before, at an emergency room, as a matter of fact, under very similar circumstances. Since I knew this, I contributed by informing him.

“Haldol and Ativan,” I said.

“Bitch,” says Honduras Black, looking right at me, like I just said something wrong. But, I could tell he wasn’t talking about me. He was still talking about Plastic Bracelet Guy’s girlfriend.

When Plastic Bracelet Guy wakes up a second time, it’s late at night. The shift at the hospital had changed and he missed a whole day of work. He’s probably fired because this isn’t the first time. He’s still tied to the bed, so he starts calling, but no one hears him. He starts to try to get out of the cuffs, straining this way and that, till he succeeds, not in getting out, but in tipping over his hospital bed. That’s when the staff comes with another shot of Haldol and Ativan.

“Bitch,” says Honduras Black, again. All this is still the girlfriend’s fault.

Right about now, I notice another guy in the room. I’ve never seen him at the cafe and, all night long, he never says anything. I call him Silent Bob, after the guy in the movie named Silent Bob, even though he looks nothing like him. Silent Bob keeps his eyes on me, only it’s not creepy. It’s kinda nice, like he’s got a thing for me, or something.

Plastic Bracelet Guy wakes up a third time, but I don’t have to tell you what happened. I’m not sure how many times he woke up and they kept giving him Haldol and Ativan, but it was enough that I lost count. The weed starts to take effect and I’m on my second or third beer by the time he’s home and chewing out his girlfriend, who started all the rigamarole in the first place. She calls the cops on him again and he runs out of the house before they get there. He skips over telling us the reason she had to call them.

“Bitch,” said Honduras Black.

I was about to bring up some important questions, something like: did they release you from the hospital or did you escape? Why did your girlfriend call the cops? Are they likely to show up here, looking for you? Or will the guys in the white coats come by, with another shot of Haldol and Ativan?  I was interrupted by a knocking at the door. I almost jumped out of my skin. They all laughed. All but Silent Bob, who just smiled.

It was just a geeker, looking for some cocaine.

“Awe, Man,” said Chai Latte. “Look at yourself. You’ve had too much already. Let me give you something else to bring you down.”

The Geeker didn’t look at himself, but I looked at him. He was a mess. His hair was a mess. His eyes, which pointed in two different directions, were a mess, too. Even his clothes were a mess. That’s when I changed my opinion of Chai Latte. He isn’t just a  drug dealer. He’s a nice guy, too. He cares about people.

The Geeker takes something into a corner and shoots up, sitting on the floor, like he’s been in a geeker world so long he forgets what chairs are for.

Chai’s friends stay the night. Plastic Bracelet Guy crashes on the couch next to me. Honduras Black glowers over his last beer until he falls asleep. Even his snoring sounds like he’s saying the word, bitch. Silent Bob nurses his beers and stays awake long enough to watch me and Chai go in the other room. I give Silent Bob a smile as I go.

Here’s another thing about Chai Latte. You know how I can’t even follow through with fucking anyone without some crazy shit going on? Well, Chai is the one guy who has the decency to get me drunk first so I don’t think about it too much. That shows consideration.

For the first time in forever, I fall asleep without crying myself to sleep first. In the arms of Chai Latte, with violent Plastic Bracelet Guy, misogynistic Honduras Black, a mollified geeker, and Silent Bob in the next room. I’m finally with my people, a tribe of misfits who have the good sense not to judge.

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S. Harry Zade

Writing a blog keeps me alive.

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