I am standing in line at the coffee shop, bagged newspaper in one hand and five-dollar bill in the other. It is 8:15 a.m., and I need my bagel and espresso. In my pocket are an avocado and an orange, part of the strange diet I have espoused without much weight-loss success.
In front of me is a woman in gray leggings and a loose tee shirt. She suddenly turns around and hisses, “Don’t stand so close to me!” Her face is tight, lips thin and eyes narrowed.
I am standing three feet from her. I say “Hun?” because I am not sure what is happening and a confrontation before coffee is unthinkable.
She says, “Move back, you fucking pervert!”
I do, not because she orders me to but because the sheer intensity of her hatred is almost physical.
The woman behind the cash register slithers away. I know her, and see her every morning. She is a tiny Peruvian named Anna with two children, and in a moment she returns with the coffee shop’s manager. I know her as well, a robust lady who could run a biker bar. She asks, “Is there a problem?”
The leggings woman points at me and says, “This… man is harassing me.”
The manager is a pro. She looks at me severely, but not too severely. “Is that true?”
I shake my head. I decide I will not engage. It would be fruitless. This is not a win-win situation.
The manager asks the leggings woman, “Have you ordered yet?
The woman shakes her head. The manager takes the woman’s elbow gently and leads her to a table. She returns to the ordering counter and tells Anna to bring the order to her table.
Then she says to me, “Espresso and sprouted grain bagel, right?”
I am thinking that I am an aging man with an avocado in my pocket and the day’s paper awaiting my perusal. Could I possibly be less threatening?
The leggings woman is at a table some fifteen feet away. I consciously do not look at her but I can sense her staring at me.
The manager delivers my order and whispers, “That was sort of strange…” She pauses, “Maybe she thought the avocado in your pocket meant you were happy to see her.”