I began counting the coins all over again. The coins – rusty and black with dirt – now lay neatly piled up to form two shiny pillars on my torn mattress. I balanced a piece of cardboard on top of it. A skyscraper. I smiled. “How would it feel, living at that height?” I thought to myself as I looked at the tall building in the opposite street. It covered most of the sky.
The twanging sound of the coins brought me back to my mission for the day – the mission to taste a rich man’s coffee.
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My little skyscraper had collapsed. It buried a chunk of my confidence with it – the confidence to disown ones wretched status for a day, the confidence to believe in long denied happy moments, the confidence to have a rich man’s coffee.
I waited till the coins stopped spinning and settled on its flat sides on the greasy road, a couple of feet away from where I sat.
The argument that I had long tried silencing now grew louder inside my head. I could hear peals of laughter and mocking words. The image of myself, ‘an argumentative beggar’ as I like to call it, now made sarcastic faces at me.
No wallet to carry the alms, no shoes to step on the expensive foot mattress – and you still plan to go for the expensive coffee?
I refused to be intimidated and began scrubbing my fingers and toenails fierily. There was so much to be done before I left for the treat.
The svelte ladies in the stilettos are like shooting stars. Get a glimpse and have a goodnight’s sleep. Don’t be a retard to go touch the stars. You will burn!
“Burn I shall, rather than being a coward like you,” I replied, unable to take in more of the annoying voice.
I could see the pale green chairs of Barista Lavazz café now filling with adolescents who giggled their way in; IT professionals who blind walked the door with ears and hands plugged with gadgets; and the aunties and uncles who wanted to chat over a sandwich after their aerobics session.
Oh you deviant one, don’t you feel like an oddball already?
I ignored the voice.
I dug my hands deep into my rug sack to find some clean clothes.
Oh so you go with motives to seduce someone?
A portion of my thighs and the back of my knees were exposed by the torn Khaki trousers. I tried tying the loose ends of the thread in vain. I gave up.
“Who looks at the legs anyway?”
I frantically removed the knots from my uncombed hair, placed the coins in my pocket, and reluctantly waited for a better comment from the voice.
I heard nothing.
I checked my profile in the broken glass piece and chuckled, “I know you don’t have anything negative to point out!”
You would better check for …
“Oh just shut up”
“I know they are dirty. I don’t care.”
No, not that. The coi…
I started to the café.
I opened the door and found my way through the legs of the chairs and delicate feet of teenagers – the images of which I had held dear all along now seemed evil and condescending.
I sat on the corner-most table and kept my gaze at the clean tiled floor.
“Oh yes yes..coffee!”
“Which one, sir? Hot or cold?”
They must be mad to make the coffee turn cold, I thought to myself.
To avoid further options, I said, “The best in hot”
A couple on the adjacent seat laughed, cupping their mouths. A group of kids to my right spoke in whispers, what I assumed to be, about my unkempt outlook. While the cashiers wore a speculative look, the waiters hesitated to serve me. A loitering kid pointed at my torn trousers and the security became vigilant, lest I vamoose.
My coffee appeared. Hot silky texture. I let it drown my complex, fear and doubts. I let the taste erase all the arguments which I had with my imbecile self.
I turned the cup upside down and let the last drop touch my tongue. I had my rich man’s coffee.
The Cinderella in me cried about going back to her god forsaken abode – where the sight of the skyscraper and the café was the only solace to a desiring soul.
I realized there was something else that bothered me more.
Drops of sweat covered my forehead as my hand frantically searched even the smallest of deposits in my pant. The coins were missing – the coins which I had meticulously saved, accurately counted and safely kept inside my pants.
I checked the pockets again and felt the touch of my fingers on my thigh.
“Sir, here is the cheque,” said the waiter.
The gallons of laughter of the argumentative beggar filled my head. I closed my ears and shouted. Shouted at my fate, at the voice and, most importantly, at the rich man’s coffee.