September 5, 2021 by Patrick Starks
Every day I would dream about what life would be like without coffee. I honestly don’t know the reason why I thought of this. Maybe it was my addiction to coffee I guess, which really in my opinion wasn’t an addiction at all, but a way of life. Nevertheless, to clear my, I had gone to my usual coffee spot just a few blocks around Jefferson Street, and with the smell being so strong it wasn’t hard to find Big Pete’s Coffee Shop. In fact, it was the only reason why Jefferson Street was nicknamed “Jefferson and the Bean Walk.” Trust me I did not think of it, but some pour soul who thought they had a shot at being a comedian did. Then again, it sure as hell put a smile on my face.
Not long I’d be walking into Big Pete’s Coffee Shop ordering my favorite green tea Coffee with a splash of half and half. No one really understood how or why I came up with such a drink, let alone, how I could drink it, but it was my drink at the end of the day.
“Here you go Gavin. Figured you would be in, so I had this one hot and ready for ya. But…” said Big Pete, pausing on his last breath.
Pete if you couldn’t tell by now was like a father figure to me. I knew he was about to give me a lecture on health and wellness which was what I needed to hear at times, but it was kind of hard hearing that from someone with belly full of pork bacon, sausage, and beer.
“Listen kid, I don’t like to meddle in other’s lives, but I worry about ya, and I care for ya. It’s not usually my style, but you should really think about laying off a bit on the caffeine. You know that shit can kill ya,” said Big Pete, wiping the sweaty concern off of his forehead.
“Don’t worry Big Pete. I got this. Plus, I’m in my prime. No way some caffeine is going to bring me down,” I said, finishing the last sip of my third round.
Big Pete shook his head, but little did he know that I wouldn’t be the only one in the room that would have caffeine problems, which again in my opinion really wasn’t a problem at all.
In the corner there was a woman that sat nice and pretty. She was obviously too old for a youngster like me, but she was still pretty enough to make a young man want to try.
Even with us being in one of the strongest smelling coffee shops in Chicago, the smell of the woman’s perfume was much stronger than any dark roast that had sat in the pot for far too long. On her table lied a large book. It seemed ancient almost. There was no title on it. There was no author. It was just a blank all over, but I knew better that a book with nothing on the cover had to be something special. Like blueprints to scientific builds, something like that.
“Hey Pete! Bring me another round,” shouted the woman.
I had hardly noticed it, but the woman was surrounded by 7 empty coffee cups, and each one of them had had her red lips printed on it with the color of red wine.
“Shayna…” said Big Pete, concerned.
“Don’t say another word, Pete. I don’t need a lecture from you. Plus, everything I need to know is in this book,” smiled the Woman now known as Shayna.
Come to think of it I had never seen the woman there before. I was pretty sure that I knew everyone in Pete’s coffee shop, then gain, it would be naïve for me to believe Pete did not get new customers. Especially being the number on coffee shop in Chicago. Although Pete never knew people on a first name basis unless they were a familiar. And well, Shayna just wasn’t a familiar. At least not to me.
One would probably call what I was about to do next a little on the nosy side, but fuck it, no one out drank me when it came to coffee, and no one made Big Pete sweat with concern as much as I did. That was my gig, no matter how non healthy and shitty it was. So, I introduced myself to Shayna.
“Hi, my name is Gavin,” I said.
Shayna had said nothing. She just sat there with her eyes as brown as the coffee in front of her, while staring into the book she struggled to hold.
I then cleared my throat. I figured starting some small talk would get her to engage in the conversation.
“Interesting book you have there. Mind if I ask you what’s it about,” I said, sitting down in the chair across from her.
Shayna then closed her book and sighed.
“Actually, I do mind, and if you couldn’t tell by now, you just sat in some piss,” she said, grinning as a disgusted expression gradually appeared on my face.
Immediately I stood up from the table and dried off my ass. Thank the heavens I was wearing dark jeans that day, which I know for some wouldn’t matter but sure as hell mattered to me. If I wore kakis that day, I’d been ruined, the laughingstock of Pete’s Coffee Shop.
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to annoy you, it’s just I have never really met anyone like myself,” I said, embarrassingly.
“You know… there is a bathroom in the back room,” said an old man from a distance.
“Yes, I’m aware… Anyways miss, sorry to bother you again, but I was curious to what you were reading.”
“I’m pretty sure there are other women you could be chasing right about now and much younger than myself. But if you must know, this book is the book all coffee lovers should have, yet only those who are chosen and can handle its addictions. It holds some of the world’s best coffee ingredients I have ever tasted. I tried getting old Pete over there to add one or two to his list, but he’s still shaken up by that kid that had that coffee overdose about two years ago. He just can’t stop blaming himself for it, but hell the kid knew what knew doing, ” said Shayna.
“Yeah, it sucks that something like that had to happen to Pete. It’s no wonder he’s always on my case about my caffeine intake. I guess I should probably listen,” I said.
It was then Shayna had the biggest smile on her face. It was awkward. I just couldn’t get past someone being so pretty but having teeth that were as stained as the church windows at Preacher Dave’s “House of the Heavens.” Obviously, it was the coffee, but did she not know what a toothbrush was or even mouth wash.
Nevertheless, Shayna had flipped through a few pages with her small and delicate hands. And each page ironically would have a coffee stain, but that was the least of my worries. On one of the pages there was a place that I had n been to in a long time. I place that wasn’t too far from Pete’s or my apartment.
“Stop! That place… I’ve been there before,” I said.
Shayna would then have an awkward look on her face. It was as if she was trying to skip it before I even said anything.
“You don’t want to know about that place. Besides, it no longer exists,” she said.
“I’ve been there before…A long time ago,” I said.
It was then Shayna had stood up from her chair, and she would be just as short as the table. Wasn’t much of a surprise though with her small hands and all.
“That’s not possible… Let me see your hands…” she said, with urgency.
I had put both of my hands down on the table between us as if we were about to do a palm reading. Shayna first looked at my right hand, and then thoroughly looked at my left. Out of nowhere she would break out into a sweat better than Big Pete had ever done on his busiest days.
“You are the son of the Edita. The one who made the only coffee that could keep you up forever and not wear down your body or soul. The blessing, yet the curse,”she said.
Out of all the coffee I had seen Shayna drink I would think something like that would be right up her alley, but there she was with her coffee cup shaking, as she had gripped the sides of the table. Although, that was not the part that I was most concerned of. That name Edita… I had never heard of it. After my mom passed, my grandmother would tell me stories of such a woman. A woman that strangely I felt very close to. But who was she and what was our connection? I wondered.
“Oh, stop it already! I think the boy has heard enough of your bickering about fairy tales and fictional characters for one day,” said a man, with a soft voice.
I had always noticed him, but never actually heard him speak until now.
He sat in the far back of the coffee shop where there was never any light, for there were no lightbulbs around nor any windows to cast down sunlight. The man wore nothing but dark clothing. Unlike Shayna, the man’s teeth were unusually bright for the dark aura that surrounded him, which was just about the only reason anyone had noticed him in the first place.
“If I were you kid, I wouldn’t keep listening to old ladies’ stories,” chuckled the man.
“Bastard!” shouted Shayna across the room.”
“Ha! indeed I am. My mother, well, my stepmother really never got over the fact that I came from another woman,” humored the man.
“Funny, very funny… You know what, maybe you should stop hiding from your wife,” shouted Shayna, across the room.
“What? How do you know about Miranda?” asked the man concerned.
Shayna smiled and cleared her throat with coffee.
“I didn’t know asshole, but thanks for telling all of us,” she chuckled.
The man then stood up in a fluster.
“Alright Gary, leave those two alone. Especially the kid. I think he’s heard enough from you and Shayna,” said Big Pete.
Embarrassed as he was, the man known as Gary ran over to Big Pete and whisphered.
“Dammit Pete… I thought I told you to never say my name around here. It’s supposed to be anonymous,” said Gary, scoping out the room, but all Big Pete did was laugh and shake his head as he continued cleaning up his countertop.
Shayna said not a word after that. She only closed her book and finished the last few sips of her coffee, walking through the door like a ghost.
I looked around to see if anyone had saw what I did, but most of them either had their faces buried in computers or news magazines, which informed them nothing but the negativities of life, but that’s whole other discussion.
But I did learn something new about myself throughout all the chaos, and to find out more about it I needed to go to the place very place Shayna urged me to forget about—Home.
The day was still young, and my old home wasn’t too far from where the coffee shop was. One could say I never left home, it being so close and all.
Anyways, the place was just a few blocks down from Pete’s. About twenty-seven steps forward and about eleven steps to the left and then to the right. About time I reached the right corner of the sidewalk, a sweaty palm would cover my mouth and pull me into the alleyway just before the turn. I turned around ready to punch the shit out of whoever it was, but at the end, it was just Gary, strangely.
“What the hell Gary?”
“Dammit Pete…” said Gary annoyed and whispering to himself.
“Yo, earth to Gary! You with me? What the hell is going on? I mean, shit man you just pulled me into the alley like the damn devil himself.”
“Yeah, well you wouldn’t be too far from the truth boy. Except, I am the one that just saved you from the devil,” said Gary, nervously.
Gary then looked passed my shoulder and swallowed his terror as best he could. Sweat dripped around his eyes eventually burning his sight from me.
His breathing being was so abnormal that I thought he was about to have a heart attack.
“Tell me you weren’t about to go in there?” he asked.
“Well, yeah. I mean, but I don’t think anyone can go in now. It’s all taped off like a murder scene.”
“Well that just pure ignorance right there. There is a reason it’s taped off you know.”
“Yeah, and there is a reason you are running form your wife, aye.”
“Ahh screw you kid. What the hell do you know about marriage. Word of advice don’t get married until you’ve done all the shit you’ve wanted to. I swear that woman… I love her but I just can’t ever seem to be myself around her. It wasn’t always like that but shit I must have gotten catfished or something because she surely isn’t the woman I met before,” said Gary, literally venting his emotion into an imaginary well.
There was an awkward silence between us now, although, the awkwardness had started long before, of course.
Gary wiped the sweat off his forehead and then massaged his neck hoping that it would clear up enough for him to speak again. I can tell there was something important he wanted to tell me, but before he could his wife would at last make her presence be known.
“Gary! Gary Buttons get your ass out here right now,” she shouted
Gary looked over my shoulder again.
“Oh no! You got to hide me man,” he said.
“And what the hell for?” I asked.
“It’s my wife okay but dammit I don’t need to explain to some kid. Besides, I just saved you from being damn near traumatized like myself. The least you could do is help a guy out here.”
“You do know that Im still going in, right?” I said.
Gary stood surprised.
“What? Your mad…All of you are fucking crazy man.”
“Gary Button! I’m going to give you to the count of five to get your ass out here or my foot will be so far up in your ass, you’re going to wish you never look at another woman with stilettos again.
Before I could even turn back to Gary, he had vanished deeper into the darkest parts of the alley like a street cat, but while Gary hid within those allies, his wife continued to harass every person on the street as if they were all suspects to Gary’s lack of maturity and what I guess by now would be commitment.
Moving along, I had gone under the yellow tape that wrapped around the building, going inside with no hesitation at all. The place looked the same as always. At the doorway I could still see the same old claw marks my dog Winston had made. I’d be a liar to say I didn’t miss him, but as all dog lovers know, they do not always stay around forever, which is too much of a sad story for anyone to explain.
The further I walked in immediately I could feel a cold draft. Goosebumps formed up my arms and my teeth chattered faster than the rattle of a rattlesnake. The floors creaked, and the sounds of my footsteps would echo like ripples in a pond. Without a doubt, something about the aura of my home had changed; from peaceful to mystical.
“Hello!” I shouted. Not a soul replied. Of course not. Afterall, the place was taped off. Almost a haunted house with all the cobwebs it was covered in.
Upstairs was where my room was. I figured if Winston’s claw marks were still at the door, surely there had to be something sentimental of myself left behind. I made my way up the stairs. Left foot and then right foot I went, repeating the same at least three more times and just a couple of more steps I would be nearly at the top of the staircase. However, about time I repeated my steps for the fifth time that was when everything literally began sinking in.
On the fifth step I took there would be another creek but much louder than normal, but this time much different than what was heard from before. I couldn’t do anything about it, my whole entire body would sink through the staircase all the way down to an area I didn’t know that existed.
The entire room was dark and smelt of coffee. I tried my best to get back up onto my feet, but it appeared that falling I had sprained my ankle.
“Get out! Get out! Get out!” a voice shouted.
My heart nearly jumped from my chest. It literally scared the shit out of me.
“Get out! Get out! Get out! Leave this place or you will be cursed for all eternity,” shouted the voice again.
The voice sounded familiar, but I couldn’t really put a name on them. Then again, one thing that was for certain, was that the voice was one of a woman’s.
Most people would have just ran like hell, but again, I had a sprained ankle, and as silly as it might have sounded, I was curious of why this person was there and how long they had been.
“I can’t leave. My ankle is sprained. This use to be my home. But I am curious to know who you are and why you’re here,” I said.
There would then be a bunch of rambling in the background, followed by a few coffee beans spilled to the floor, and within a split second a light would come on, creating a spotlight in the middle of the room like a giant flashlight.
And in the middle of that light a short person with a hunch back sat on the floor. Around their waist was a belt that beard 30 or more coffee cups.
“Why did you come here?” said the woman, slowly revealing her face. Her eyes were gold and flourishing like the sun. No, like coffee.
“Shayna…” I said.
I never knew a human being to emit such an aura, but I could feel hers all around the room. Shayna felt like a completely different person. Although part of me did feel that there was something off about her from the time that we met.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Isn’t it obvious,” said Shayna.
“Nothing is obvious here, besides the fact that maybe you have been stalking me all of this time,” I said.
Shayna then gave her best smile, but it was still all the same, like stained glass at a church.
Without any warning at all, Shayna reached me within seconds. She’d pulled on my cheeks, tugged on my chin, and played with my hair like a kid that had been given curly fries for the first time.
“Amazing … you just don’t know how special you are do you?” she said, with glowing eyes in the shade behind her, and from that shade a black cat entered the light, pouring and rubbing its body against the woman’s leg.
Little did I know how crazy things would get from there.
To be continued / stay tuned for part 2 next weekend