The service was slow at the little coffee shop where Lisa and I met up. Their pastry selection left more than a little to be desired, and the, albeit attractive but ultimately useless, barista that was always working when we went there made hands down the worst macchiato I have ever tasted. I always over-tipped though, because she had those bright hopeful blue eyes and that smile. I usually justified this with hopes that she was using her tips for college, so that she wouldn’t be serving coffee forever, because she was bad at it. No, Lisa and I didn’t come here for any of the normal reasons a person picks a coffee shop, not that I could figure out at least. We met there to catch up once a month because, for some reason, she liked the place and, being as she was my sister, I wasn’t about to just stop our monthly gab-fests because I hated the place she wanted to meet.
It was December, and the coffee shop was decorated with sparkly and shiny Christmas crap, and they had signs all over the place that said things about eggnog. I had arrived, as usual, a few minutes earlier than Lisa, so as Lisa was up at the counter ordering, I sat back contemplating my drink. I had thought that, maybe the barista was just bad at macchiati, so I decided to go with a more popular drink, perhaps something she made more often.
I had walked up to order and the cute little brunette had said “You usually get the macchiato, right?”
I was impressed that she remembered, and said “Instead I’ll have a bone dry cappuccino, with a bit of extra foam, please.”
When she just smiled and wrote it down, I dropped two dollars in my tip jar. “Please go to college and become a doctor, or lawyer, or anyone with a less important profession,” I thought.
The drink was shit. I waited for Lisa to come back and started thinking about that summer between my first and second year of college, when Lisa and I had gone on a road trip with her high school friend Wilma and our cousin Wyatt. We had made our way up from southern California to a wedding in Oregon. It had been a blast. There was a small town that we stopped in somewhere north of Sacramento, where I tasted my first macchiato, where I had fallen in love with that perfect balance of foam, espresso and milk. I loved the brown Rorschach espresso stain in the foam that, for some reason always looked to me like a face.
I thought hard until Lisa got back to the table. I couldn’t remember, for the life of me, what town we had been in. I had liked it, but its name completely escaped my mind, which bothered me.
“Lisa, remember back when we went to Oregon for that wedding,” I started.
“With Wyatt and Wilma?” she asked, “Yeah, that was a fun trip, why?”
“I’m trying to remember the town we stopped in and went to that little cafe.”
She just looked at me for a long moment with her eyebrow raised until I explained, “I can’t remember and it’s bugging me.”
“Ah,” she said, thoughtfully, “the town where we ended up getting on the wrong highway and heading west for like twenty miles before realizing it?”
I laughed while nodding, not my proudest moment. That story had been told quite a few times, to my embarrassment, but parsing all the retellings in my head, I couldn’t find the name of the town.
She thought about it for a long moment, after getting a good chuckle off her chest first, of course, then said, “You know, I don’t have a clue, sorry.”
I just grunted and looked down at the table.
“We could call Wyatt and ask,” she suggested, noting that it was really bothering me.
It seemed like a viable solution, but Wyatt and I had had a falling out a week before. Harsh words had been exchanged over a ball game. Now I don’t even really remember what, but at the time we had left on a bad note and we would need a little space to heal before mending fences. “Not sure that’s a great idea,” I said.
Half an hour later though, Lisa had convinced me, as creative Googling on our phones, nor talk of the trip gave any clue, so I called him, with the promise to myself that I would get right to the point. “Wyatt, where were we when we went west with Wilma?”
“Peter Piper picked a peck of leave me the fuck alone,” he said and hung up.
Lisa fell out of her chair laughing and the cute barista could be seen giggling behind the counter.