No matter where you work if there is food a fight over who pays will always happen. It’s an inevitability in life; the TTC stinks like B.O. in the summer, city raccoons have no fear of people, the pigeons in this town are to be feared and when food becomes involved Canadian politeness takes a, at times, violent turn and mutates into a steroid-infused version of itself. As people fight for the chance to pay I find myself experiencing an array of emotions, from a slight amount of awkward discomfort to borderline hysterical amusement and I can feel myself watching it all unfold.
As the sound of today’s argument rises over the squeal of steaming milk and the dulcet tones of Arcade Fire on vinyl I ask myself if getting involved is even worth it. I choose to take the coward’s way out and keep my back to them, in hopes to lessen the risk of getting drawn in for my opinion. With each passing second, my hope soars but it’s in those moments that the inexplicable can occur and the reality that you thought existed shifts on its axis and your perception of that reality are forever altered.
As I’m standing there waiting for the milk to finish frothing and the espresso to brew, I start to look back on my first few months at PRESS and now I wonder how I missed all the signs, how I chalked up all the weird things I saw too just tricks of my imagination, but now that I know that I’m not crazy I find a level of unsureness filling me. I don’t know now if I feel more or less prepared to go to work.
It’s a loud clap of unexpected thunder and a flash of lightning that shakes me out of my musing. A rush of heat engulfs my legs and my ears ring from the unexpected sound ripping through the shop startling me enough that the hot milk sloshes over the rim of the steaming jug over my hand, the man and woman behind me cease their argument and in almost perfect unison the three of us turn to look at the back of the shop in time to see Damon closing the back door with a firm sound that echoes all the way to the front door leaving a feeling of anticipation in its wake.
It’s the casual way he walks towards us reading his newspaper that makes the whole situation seem even more absurd than it already is.
“What was that, did you see that, did you hear it?” the woman asks Damon.
“What?…I didn’t’ see anything, ahh it was probably nothing anyway.” was Damon’s answer, his attention to the matter quickly diverted back to his newspaper.
It was his reply, that standard answer that sparked my brain to examine in more detail all the similarly odd happenings over that last few months. It was in that moment that all the puzzles pieces fit together and the sweeping realization washed over me. How many times had he said that exact same thing to me and I just took it at face value, never questioning his answer or thinking further on my own questionings?
The woman, in the ensuing confusion paid me and they left satisfied with Damon’s answer and happy with their coffees and pastry. I still don’t know why I didn’t in that moment confront Damon and ask point blank just what was happening but I didn’t. He sat and read his paper drank his coffee and as always acted as if the last 5 minutes didn’t happen.
Letting my thoughts percolate I realized that at this moment I would get nowhere with him and my best course of action was to watch and wait. I knew that Rebecca would be working tomorrow and that she might be the only person who might know just what was going on with PRESS and would probably be the only person I would be able to get a straight answer out of to boot.
It was later that night, right before close that I looked up at the noise of a person clearing their throat. To this day I have no real explanation for his ability to move quite as a cat but he is continuously able to sneak up on me unnoticed; Sherman as always stands before me unassuming and with a disarming friendly smile.
“Hey, how’s it going, can I get a large coffee and a chocolate chip cookie?” he says.
“Coffee and a cookie coming up.” I say reaching for a disposable cup,”It’s been a weird day today that’s for sure” I say wryly
“Yeah it’s going to be all thunderstorms tonight, make sure to bring your umbrella.” he takes his coffee and cookie and exits just as silently as he entered.
It’s later that night as I stand outside with my dog in the pouring rain that I regret not taking his advice. Arriving home completely drenched and dripping all over the floor, a crack of thunder and a flash of lightning overwhelm my senses and take me back to that conversation I had with Sherman. As the memory plays in my mind I can’t help but wonder if his comment was a foreshadowing of what was to come and further makes me question just what he knows about the odd happenings around PRESS. That question wouldn’t be answered tonight, but on a night in the future, I would get my answers in a way I never expected to.