“Ello love, will ya be having the usual this morning?” Bev asks in her gorgeous English lilt.
“It’s freezing, the thermometer on my car says 57 degrees! The same but make it hot,” I answer. “How are your girls?”
“Tis going to be a rough road for Maggie, I’m afraid. She’s traumatized. She was shot in the arm, she was. They were there with a group, and when the shooting started they all grabbed hands but no one grabbed Maggie’s. She’s ‘aving a hard time, that one.”
“Next time you see her, tell her she’s in my prayers.”
“Thank you, love.”
Every morning for over twenty years I’ve stood in line at various Starbucks stores, waiting like Pavlov’s dog to receive my drink; a decaf, soy, one-pump mocha with no whipped cream. Hot in the winter when the temperature dips below 60 degrees, and iced when the mercury reaches anything above.
When I succumbed to anxiety, it was Starbucks that helped me expand my agoraphobic horizons. I’d sweat the three-mile drive to my closest location, breathing in through the nose and out through my mouth, talking myself though the wait in line, head tingling and dizzy from panic. That drink at the end of the dread was my reward. Over and over I’d make the trek, each time surviving it, until a few years later I could make it without the sweating or the tingling or the dizziness.
Before I was agoraphobic, my husband and I snaked our way from California to Florida, to Washington, D.C. and back. I’ve ordered my custom concoction from baristas in Winslow, Arizona; St. George, Utah; Denver, Colorado; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Omaha, Nebraska; Wichita, Kansas; Columbia, Missouri; Edmond, Oklahoma; Dallas, Texas; Huntsville, Alabama; Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Daytona Beach, Florida; and Williamsburg, Virginia.
The Starbucks at the corner of Marine and Balboa, on Balboa Island is my favorite. The store is so narrow, patrons are crammed in like sardines. You’ll find a small area pressed against the big picture window in front, lined by a dark wooden counter. Shakers of cinnamon, chocolate, nutmeg, and crystalized peppermint sugar are accompanied by napkins, recycled cardboard sleeve holders adorned with the Starbucks nymph, and of course, straws and stirrers; if you can get to them. The western facing wall is lined with branded wares, the opposite one houses the bar, register, pastry case, and pick-up counter.
Once I’d wrangle through the crowd, coffee in hand, I’d find a seat outside, the faint ocean breeze lapping at the back of my neck, where I would sit and sip, slowly.
Today, my local Las Vegas store is not quite so exotic. It’s located in an Albertson’s half a mile from my house, where a few weeks ago a man screamed at me in the parking lot. I’d offered my unsolicited opinion on his animal abuse, telling him he should be ashamed of himself, leaving his dogs alone in the truck and terrified.
“It’s people like you that make America stupid. I’d hate to see your closet. That’s where the dead bodies are buried.” And then for good measure he threw in, “YOU BITCH!”
After the encounter, instead of being shaken, all I could think was, do I look like the kind of person that has dead bodies in her closet? I have makeup on today.
Subsequent visits have me scanning the perimeter for his huge, white, Toyota Tundra with the “Retired Marine” sticker plastered on the back window. If I spot it, I can always head to an alternate Starbucks down the road.