“Green tea latte with almond milk.”
This time—the third time—the barista’s voice cut through the air with an edge, meant to slice the person inconveniencing her with a dose of public shaming. Rodney Melliver knew the drink was his, but he couldn’t respond. Shoulders slumped forward and chin to chest, he realized there was a distinct possibility the tiny round table dappled in pastry crumbs might be the last thing he ever saw.
The first tingles danced up his arm while he stood in line, waiting to order the ridiculously overpriced drink everyone at work had talked about. He ignored it at the time because, as had been the case for the past several days, he found himself lost in the past. Memories flooded his mind without warning. Each one bringing him to his knees with shame and regret.
While in line, Rodney was in the midst of reliving his daughter’s birthday. Well, the last one he remembered and, more impressively, acknowledged. Two days past the day she was born, he got her a card and didn’t even bother putting it in the envelope. The freshly turned nine year old was on the couch watching television when he got home. He tossed the card next to her and mumbled happy birthday without breaking his stride to grab a beer from the fridge. Now, eleven years later, remorse had found him, demanding as much attention in the spotlight as the dull prickles traveling up and down his arm and the painful contractions in his chest.
Rodney imagined himself outside of his body. An observer to his own pathetic state: slouched and alone. So alone that there wasn’t even an empty seat at the table for him to welcome potential company. Borrowed earlier by the fleshy-faced guy at the neighboring table. When he watched him carry it away and join his friends, Rodney was gut-punched with jealousy. It had become increasingly difficult for him to see what life could have been if he had only tried.
But he hadn’t. And here he was.
“Green tea latte with…you know what? Forget thi…”
The barista’s voice trailed off and darkness crowded the edges of Rodney’s vision, he hated that his last act before dying would be to add another person to the list of people he had angered.
As the sounds around him melted together into a tinny, echoey jumble, Rodney vowed that if he was given another chance, his life would be different. He would be better. Do better.
And he would definitely try the green tea latte with almond milk.