“Coffee. COFFEE,” came the man’s voice from behind him. Davide turned and nodded. By then, the man had since returned his attention to the magazine in front of him. His empty cup remained outstretched in his hand. Davide nodded, understanding essentially what the man wanted. Quickly he returned with a pot. As he leaned in to pour, the man said the word “decaf”. To Davide, it sounded just like his word for “coffee” so he proceeded to fill the cup. As he did, the man stuck out his hand once more covering the top of the cup. “Decaf??” said the man, looking out from above his reading glasses. Davide stopped, hearing the man better. He took off his glasses. “DEE-KAFF,” said the man, stressing the syllables. Davide was shooed away as the man re-affixed his glasses.
“Rojo is regular, miho. Verde is decaf,” said Lucile, as she darted off to another table. She was already befriending Davide. It was his second day at the property and his first day of work. Even then, he could tell Lucile “ran” the restaurant. She had a motherly quality about her that he hoped to impress.
Walking back to the table, correct coffee in hand, Davide stowed his anger towards the man with the empty cup. He needed the job and showing any sign of irritation with the guests would result in an immediate discharge from the resort. He had a bed here, with sheets that were clean. He was provided with a uniform. And in time, with enough money saved, he could buy new clothes again; clothes that fit for once. He tried to focus on keeping that goal.
Before he reached the table, another women one table closer, tugged his sleeve asking “decaf?”. Davide nodded and filled her cup. From Davide’s peripheral, he noticed the man scoff and fold his magazine shut in upset. The pot was low to begin with but still seemed to have enough left for the man who was waiting. Davide stepped over to this table hearing the man complain unintelligibly.
“—hard is it to get a cup of coffee? Dontcha need at least some kind of IQ to serve people? Jesus…” Unable to understand, Davide stood at the table, waiting to fill the cup the man was still gesturing with to his wife. He pretended not to notice Davide standing there. After a moment passed, the man turned, feigning surprise, placing his cup down on the table. He asked once more “Dee kaff?”
Again Davide nodded, “Si. DeKaff”. Once more he lifted the pot to pour, when the man stopped him.
“Awww! Look! It’s practically gone! And how cold is it now? Christ Almighty… ya served her first when I’ve been WAITING,” said the man, as he tossed his glasses to the table top. His wife patted his hand. Davide did not process a single word. He grasped the man was upset, but that was it. He felt he had enough to fill the cup, and knew he had the right coffee, yet still the man was upset.
“Losiento. No… decaff?…” asked Davide.
“Nooo. YES decaf — but MORE. It’s EMPty. See?” said the man, pointing at the pot.
Davide apologized once more, despite his confusion. The man then reached for the pot, angrily pouring it’s contents into the cup, carelessly spilling onto the tablecloth. “SEE? No more. EMPTY. Bring more. Por fevor.” He was pointing back and forth at the empty pot and half full cup. As he said please, he shoved the pot back into Davide’s hands. Bobbling it, the pot fell and smashed away from the table. Davide stood there struck by the whole event, feeling ashamed despite not knowing what the man had said. When the pot broke, a few heads turned to see. The man laughed into his cup as he resumed drinking.
A small flush of embarrassment found a home at the bridge of Davide’s nose. It spread into something uglier as bent over to collect the broken glass. Shoveling the pieces into his serving apron, he stood up to see the man gesture Davide’s way once more, his back to him. He noticed his head shake; his casual demeanor; the way he reclined in his chair, stomach puffing out.
Davide looked at the glass in his lap, which was soaking his apron from the remnant coffee. One curved piece was particularly large. He fingered it between his thumb and palm, slowly walking up to the seated man.
Gingerly he grabbed the nape of the man’s neck. Bringing his right hand around the man’s neck, Davide concealed the sharp edge. Only the man could feel it’s potential against his throat. When closing in, the glass had fallen back out of Davide’s apron, once more making a shrieking clatter to turn heads. Patrons were shocked to see one of the help arrest the man at the table so severely. None of them understood what Davide was saying.
“I could not do it here, no. You filthy pig. Look outside, look out that window!” Davide steered the man’s direction with the clutch of his hair. “That is the forest. After one day you feed the animals. Two days you feed the bugs. Three days you feed the trees.” He spun the man back to his own eye line. “And after four, no one will know you were here.”
Davide relaxed his grip when he felt the man took his word as truth. Even without knowing his language, the slight whimper creeping at his lip was evidence he understood.
Each person sat in their own quiet little panic. They stared at him with mouths agape. What he said was genuine. A true scorn dissipated into the room from Davide’s word. Something in the way he spoke, they understood. Their collective little facsimile of home was a thin veneer, upheld by the very people they looked down upon. Should the walls fall, the true distance of here to their beds would be hauntingly real.
“Davide!” Lucile was at his shoulder. Davide stood there, apron still clutched full of glass. “Miho, take that to the back, don’t just stand there. C’mon, c’mon.” The man sat at the table sipping his coffee another waitress had just poured him. Everyone in the dining area continued eating and talking loudly. Davide blinked twice and stepped back to kitchen area. Lucile followed after dropping jelly off to one of her tables.
“You ok? What a puta, no?” Lucile laughed, her eyes squinting. She tried to make light of Davide’s embarrassment. Once more that day, he appreciated it. “Don’t let it bother you, miho. These people… they forget sometimes. But not all are like that. You’ll see. Some people that come here can actually be pretty nice. You’ll see.”
Davide watched Lucile sprint back out to her tables. She spoke in a friendly tone to each person. She was right though. Some people seemed to take notice. Some had manners. Others did not. Like the man with his decaf. Lucile was right about him — he was one that forgot his place. Davide thought about how it would have felt if he actually said what he thought. Maybe then the man would remember.