Appropriately enough for a personal anecdote, there is no real issue here — just a series of events which effected a improper response — and in fact I have thought about it after I finally crawled home and realized that not only was I being just shy as hell, I was being a total goddamn jerk and have no real way of reconciling it.
There’s an excellent coffee shop on Greenwich Ave. between Murray and Warren called Kaffe 1668. It’s a weird hipster & black sheep themed cafe where the lights are always too low, the staff looks suspiciously out of place in suit-n-tie tribeca, Coffee is spot on, and the pastries while pricy are wonderfully indulgent. I’ve been going there first bi-weekly, then twice a day, then finally I had just come in the afternoon because one of the baristas was adorable in that nerdy way and always smiled when I came in and it made me feel better.
It’s not uncommon for smiles to make people comfortable, and this did not designate any interest, this was for all intensive purposes a little ‘crush’. She asked me my name last week and she began to get my coffee ready whenever I opened the door.
The problem begins here: I do not really like being noticed. I try to live under the illusion that I move through this big pond without making so much as a ripple, the great thing about being background noise is that nobody really cares how you look or what you’re doing, the entire city can pass you by. As I’ve worked in Tribeca, I frequent places, eventually the employees have been friendly — I know the guys over at the jewish deli like family, the burnt-out-latin french cook (questionable construction there), the chicken guy over at Cornerstones, or the psychotic mob fellows at Amore across the street — but these are all places I frequent less because I don’t really want to have to do more than order my food, say thank you, and run back to the office. I need coffee though, and 1668 is the only good ticket in town.
So I’ve been dealing with her inquiries and service cautiously: I say thank you (look in her eyes, smile briefly, cement the fact that I actually am ‘thankful’), sometimes throw out a quick witticism so I don’t seem like a robot. But she began to buy me drinks last week that I didn’t want to accept, I didn’t wish to partake in a social contract which could ever disrupt this we-smile-at-each-other-but-that’s-it situation. I did. I’ve accepted four drinks in the last week.
Is there a social responsibility if someone buys you a drink? I can barely talk to strangers let alone interpret their subtle social cues, and I am lost. Every trip there has been a carefully evaluated series of events which I contemplate with my coffee’s requisite cigarette on the way back to Chambers Street.
Okay, I’m getting a little tipsy so I’ll wrap this up: She’s started coming in the store and I run away. I don’t literally throw my limbs in the air and dash out of sight. I acknowledge her, and I see her smile and raise her eyebrows, and I turn and start working towards the basement. I sat in the cellar for fifteen minutes although she apparently (according to sales staff) leaves pretty soon after I make my exit.
How dare you, I thought.
Then I realized that that’s a risk on her part too, I’m such a jerk. And there’s nothing I hate more than being a jerk, and I’m way too shy and there’s not even any resemblance to a human relationship to save past a professional obligation to serve me big cups of delicious coffee. We could have been buddies, and shit, seriously, you should see how bad I am with young women I’m interested in — it’s fucking awful.