Kassandra greeted her coffee shop co-worker with a smile and wave, shaking herself back to the present moment. Winter had begun, the conversation with her parents about her future receded into the past, and she focused on the tasks that would earn her money for rent and tuition.
She set up the first pots of self-serve brewed coffee: one medium, one dark, one de-caf. Her co-workers liked to laugh at the idea of coffee without caffeine in the morning, but Kassandra saw it differently. We don’t serve coffee, she’d say to herself, her daily work mantra. We serve people.
And if the people did not want to wake up in the morning, if they wanted to stay half-asleep, or rely on their kombucha or yoga breath-of-joy or talk radio to wake them up, or if they were just ending an overnight shift and wanted to experience the companionability of the coffee shop as a transition between work and home and sleep, Kassandra would serve them with smiles rather than questions.
As she checked all the supplies, vented the espresso maker, and arranged the morning pastries in their case, her mind drifted happily to the project she’d started in her painting class. Inspired by her customer, the art professor Marilyn, Kassandra began with a sketch of a giant squid. They were learning how to use paint as texture as well as color, and Kassandra had a vision of creating the texture of murky water swirling around the slick, shiny skin of the giant squid. She wanted to experiment with adding something surreal, as well. A friend insisted she should put a Star Wars character in every painting. Kassandra smiled to herself as she considered R2-D2 meeting the giant squid.
For many of her co-workers, the coffee shop job was a way station on the track toward their “real” careers. For Kassandra, it was her home while she learned how to make art. She suspected it would be her home when she became an artist, and her home when she retired from art.
“Good morning,” she asked the first customer through the door, still a half-minute before they were truly open. “What can I get for you?”