He is standing at the counter of the coffee shop. She is standing behind him, staring at the back of his head. He has been ordering for at least a minute already. Cappuccinos and machiattos, lattes and pour-overs, soy, almond, half & half, full-caf, decaf, half caf, every caf imaginable.

He muses very deliberately over the baked goods and starts adding them one by one to his order. Scones. Cookies. Brownies. Different varieties of muffin.

She shifts around so that she is hovering behind him, just inside his peripheral vision. He needs to know that she is waiting. She needs this coffee.


She is owed this coffee. The world owes her this coffee. This stranger owes her this coffee.

She is a mother. Without mothers there would be no strangers, there would be no coffee, no coffee shops, no decaf soy lattes. She was awake most of the night with a baby who insists on growing. It was a rough one in a month full of rough ones.

They say that society is only ever three skipped meals away from anarchy. Or maybe it's six. Either way, she thinks it seems like a conservative estimate. She wonders if it's the same for sleep; how many missed nights it takes to bring down an empire.

He is still adding baked goods to his order. She suppresses a sigh. She has vowed not to be passive aggressive today. He is making this very difficult.

He taps his card on the counter as he contemplates the shortbread. She shifts from one foot to the other. She wants him to know she is behind him, at least. This man, who thinks he owns the coffee shop. Who thinks he can take as long as he wants when there are sleep-deprived mothers in the vicinity.

The girl at the counter asks if he wants anything else. He thinks for a moment. 

She is trying not to put her hands on her hips, not to bore a hole in the back of his head with her eyes. But it could happen. And she won't be responsible if it does. It will be all his fault.

He turns around, smiling, and gestures to her. "And whatever she wants."

She is overcome with gratitude. She thanks him, a little too fervently.

She has to work very hard not to hug him, and cry.