Kik was known as a man of few words. He liked to keep his answers and descriptions short and succinct. He felt no need to explain further than necessary to get his point across. His friends would label him as “to the point” to his face and “boring” behind his back. If you ask him about his day, you will receive an answer along the lines of “fine,” “not great,” or “terrible,” with no elaboration. When he goes to McDonald’s, he always orders the same thing: a regular cheeseburger, plain, with a small fry and a water. There was quite possibly no more predictable person in the world.
That was until he met Laura.
On Tuesday, March 5th, like every other Tuesday, Kik went to the neighborhood coffee shop, Mean Beans, with his friends Julie and Niles. He walked up to the counter to order his usual: a black americano, hot. As he approached, he kept his head facing down as he fumbled with his wallet to pull out $3.17, the exact change he knew was needed for his weekly coffee.
“Hi, what can I get for you?” the sweet voice from beyond the register asked him. Kik raised his eyes to meet the face that belonged with the voice. It was a face he had never seen before. Cute dimples, short haircut of shimmering black color held back by a red scarf, standing at only about 5 foot 3, gazing at Kik with her hazel eyes. “Who are you?” Kik asked in a daze.
The barista was taken aback slightly by the sudden question of her identity instead of a simple request for coffee. “Umm….My name is Laura,” she replied, wondering if this was one of those creepy guys who stalked the girls on staff. Kik then realized by the slightly terrified look on Laura’s face that he probably could have phrased his question a little better. “Sorry, I just come here every Tuesday but I’ve never seen you here,” he tried to soften the situation.
Laura chuckled and gave him a small smile. “Well, I just started working here this week. So this is my first Tuesday. What do you usually drink when you’re here on Tuesdays?”
“Umm..a hot black americano,” Kik replied in a bit of a daze.
“Keeping it simple. I like it,” Laura said as she punched in his order. “Do you want any flavoring in it?”
“Oh, no, I always just get a plain hot black americano,” Kik replied, embarrassed by his unoriginality.
Laura smiled at his timidness. “Would you like to try one today? Add a little flavor to your life? My personal favorite is adding lavender flavoring.”
Kik was at a loss for words, what few he had. “Uh..uh...okay,” was all he could manage to get out. He quickly put the money on the counter and hurried to his seat without getting his receipt or looking back. He sat down abruptly in the booth across from Julie and Niles, who were both taken aback from his hastened sitting down.
“You okay there, buddy?” Niles lightly asked his seemingly troubled friend.
Kik tilted his head as he tried to figure out himself what exactly was wrong with him. “I...I think I’m fine. I should be fine. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be fine.”
Julie and Niles weren’t buying it. “Yeah, that’s twice as many words as you usually say. Are you having a stroke?” Julie pressed.
“No, no, I’m fine,” Kik responded a little too quickly. Before his friends could interrogate him any further, Laura arrived to the table with his new tasty concoction. “Here you go. Enjoy! Let me know if you like it,” she said with a sweet smile as she set the cup down and retreated back to the counter.
Niles gave a smug look with raised eyebrows in question of the hot beverage. “Didn’t you order the same thing you always order?”
Bringing the steaming cup to his lips for his first taste, Kik gave his very unsure response: “Umm...she changed it a little.”
“She messed with your plain, hot americano? What is she, psycho?” Julie was amazed at Kik’s willingness to give something new a shot. But as soon as Kik tasted the lavender mixed into his liquid courage, his fear of the unknown melted away.
“No, she’s a genius!” Kik’s eyes went wide as Julie and Niles’ mouths dropped in amazement. Whether it was the lavender flavoring or the girl who made the glorious coffee, Kik wasn’t sure. But he now began to see the world in a way he had never thought of it before: detailed in beauty. His mind started racing with adjectives that he didn’t even know were in his vocabulary. However, he knew if he started speaking the words running through his mind, he would completely freak out his friends. He knew he needed to keep his words and feelings to a minimum for contingency’s sake.
“I mean...it’s fine,” was all he said about his americano. His simple answer was sufficient for his friends. But internally, his answer played out very differently: “This is the greatest cup of liquid gold that has ever been concocted by man or machine. The biting bitterness of the blackened dark roast was cut through by the tender sweetness of the flowery taste of lavender, reminding me of frolicking through a meadow in the springtime. All other cups of coffee pale in comparison, whether they be a roast from Ethiopia, grounds-in brew from Turkey, or a pour-over with sweetened condensed milk in Vietnam. None could equal the fragrant aroma or the lasting aftertaste of this cup of Joe from Mean Beans.”
But of course, he kept all of that in his head.
After finishing their coffees, the group headed out to go to the mall. But not before Kik tried to steal one last glance at his magical potion maker. He kept his eyes on Laura as she continued to ring up customers, and as she looked up and met his eyes, she gave him her subtle smile as he headed out the door.
“What are you smiling about?” Niles asked chidingly as they walked down the street.
“Oh...it’s just a decent day,” was Kik’s immediate response. But his mind had crafted a detailed explanation for his joyous expression: “My smile is but a pale mirror reflection of the dimpled countenance of the most beautiful creature that I have ever beheld. Her delicate hands expertly poured that glass of perfection, somehow knowing exactly what my taste buds needed when I myself had no idea of what flavorful meaning I was missing from my life. This precious angel has descended from Heaven for the purpose of fulfilling myself by fulfilling my stomach.”
But again, he didn’t say any of that out loud.
As they walked to the mall, Kik found himself seeing beauty where he had never noticed it before. “Look at these flowers,” he thought to himself. “Normally I would just glance over them and maybe think that they aggravate my allergies, but now I see that they are all uniquely beautiful! The yellow ones are a shining reflection of the sun that lights our lives. The red ones remind us of the love we feel for our significant others and family and friends that we hold dear. The green plants show us that nature continues to thrive even in the midst of the concrete jungle. Oh! And the air feels so crisp today! Normally the pollution of the city floods the air and sucks out the oxygen, but today I can breathe easily with no asthma side effects! The weather is perfect, my friends are perfect, and that coffee was perfect. It’s a perfect day!”
His mind raced with descriptors as they approached the mall. Entering the building, Kik’s senses started to go into hyperdrive. “Ok, I need to get some things from Bath and Body Works, and Niles, you wanted to check out the sale at the bookstore. Maybe we can get some Chinese food at the food court after that. What about you, Kik? Anything catch your interest in the mall that you want to look at?” Julie turned to their slightly cynical friend. But the cynical front was beginning to fall off.
“I...don’t...have….” Kik needed a short, vague answer, but his brain was swirling with all the things dividing his attention. He needed to maintain his appearance, but he could feel himself slipping. “I...can’t…”
Then he broke.
“Who am I kidding? EVERYTHING here catches my interest! The blinding lights that show off all of the gorgeous details of the kiosks, the pretzel stand that sells the most salty, buttery baked dough, the carousel located near the food court to allow the children to enjoy the atmosphere of a carnival without the clowns while their parents watch while eating scrumptious Chinese food. Oh, the Chinese food! The crispy crab rangoon, the orange chicken drowning in sauce, the delicious noodles that slip every time you try to pick them up with the chopsticks but you keep trying until you get them into your mouth because you need to savor their goodness the way they were meant to be enjoyed. There are screaming children everywhere, embracing their childhood and unbridled joy, making friends with everyone with no prejudice. How I long to be a child again! How I long to see the world through the unfiltered eyes of a child, seeing its wonders as if for the first time!”
Julie and Niles were speechless. They had never heard so many words come out of Kik’s mouth. Normally this would have been how much they would hear from him spanning about 3 months. Finally, after several moments of trying to wrap his mind around this phenomenon, Niles found a few words to form a question. “What...happened to you?”
Kik thought for a minute about an accurate response.
“I had a really great cup of coffee today.”