If That Meant A Little Ennui Then Fine
“But back then your man wouldn’t respect you,” Jenny interjected, pushing spilled sugar around on the table. “You just want that crap because you didn’t grow up around it. I mean you had the kind of parents who named their kid ‘Cardamom.’ Grass is greener, remember?”
“So what if my husband wouldn’t respect me?” Cardamom retorted. “The customers at the café don’t respect me and they don’t leave me the hell alone all day like a husband would,” Cardamom added. She wanted to suck on the end of a thin cigarette but she didn’t smoke and never had. Jenny snorted and checked her phone. She pulled her cheeks in and sucked hard on the straw of her Frappuccino until she had a big, sugary mouthful of it.
Cardamom took two sips of her calming chamomile tea and looked across the street to where the café stood innocuously. It was playing innocent, as if it wasn’t an instrument of torture. No one there respected her. Men didn’t ever respect her. Not in the café, not in the street, not in her bed.
“And so what, Cardamom? You want to get hitched to some three martini lunch drunk who smells like cigarette smoke. Have him crawling all over you every night?” said Jenny, drumming the table with her manicured fingers.
“How many hours a week do you spend having sex and how many do you spend working? And cleaning and cooking, you still have to do all that after your forty hours are up.” Cardamom fiddled with the thick pimple on her chin, lightly squeezing it and enjoying the guilt.
“He could even beat you. Or stop you from spending any money. Or he could make you pop out five kids then hit the road.” With all her might Jenny sent psychic beams to Cardamom ordering her to change the subject, or else. She checked the time on her phone. Just six more minutes and Cardamom’s break would be up, thank God.
Cardamom felt irritable and fussy. She gulped down some more calming chamomile tea and put the ceramic cup down too forcefully on its saucer. The clanging hurt her ears and embarrassed her. When she was done suppressing a blush she sighed. “Do you know what happened yesterday? Right in the middle of my shift?”
“A man came in. He was wearing a suit, which is how I instantly knew he was an asshole. He ordered a latte. So I make it for him lickety-split, hand it to him and suddenly he claims he ordered a cappuccino. I try to be polite about the fact he’s lying to my fucking face for no reason. I was literally gritting my teeth. Then he throws the receipt at me. I tell him to leave the café now. I’m not even swearing at him, just firmly telling him to leave. And in response he dumps the whole latte out on the counter. Couldn’t hold it back anymore, I started crying. No, weeping. Really pitifully weeping like a weak child. He looked at me. He was sweaty, but his face was so neutral, so bland and relaxed. The man, sweaty in his suit, he knew I’d been reduced to tears by him and it was just a neutral experience to him. Later my manager told me I need to learn to deescalate situations better. Now I’m never going to get a raise.”
“Yeah, I saw you post about that on Facebook,” said Jenny with an acid tone. Cardamom knew she was being irritating but she still couldn’t stop. She despised Facebook. Many times she’d tried to psych herself up to delete it but could never pull the trigger. She loved to see the shitty lives of girls from high school and gloat over their failures. And she loved to look up the girls from college who were doing better than her and cry over it.
“Do you ever miss Myspace?” asked Cardamom.
As a teen Cardamom’s favorite thing to do was Myspace. The quizzes, the selfies, the careful rearranging of Top 8s. It all felt fun and important in a way she’d never felt since. But above all, she loved talking to boys she’d never met.
“I was more of a Vampire Freaks girl, honestly.”
“It was fun just to chat with boys. I’d flirt a little and look at their pictures all the time. Poured all my teen feelings into them. It was nice. They were all perfect men to me because I didn’t have any proof that they weren’t perfect.”
Cardamom thought about telling Jenny her next thought but fell silent instead, knowing deep down that’s what Jenny preferred. Cardamom went on ruminating about it. Back then she’d only messaged rural boys who lived in nowhere places like the one she was stuck in. City boys were too cool. They lived in a world stuffed to the brim with pretty girls. It had been clear that no matter how high up her Wal-Mart push up bra pushed her breasts or how low she pulled her tank top down her photos were never got enough for a city boy. Now that she was here in the city all she wanted was for the boys to look away from her. Getting what she wished for hadn’t worked out so far. Maybe it was time to give up wishing.
“Your break is up,” Jenny reminded her both helpfully and unhelpfully. Cardamom said goodbye and wished Jenny well. They didn’t hug.
As she stood on one side of the street Cardamom deeply scowled. In the middle of the road she looked neutral. By the time she swung open the cafe's glass door she smiled lightly. There were three more hours of work today and twenty more this week.