My favorite coffee shop is always uncomfortably warm. In the summer they push open the old transom windows under the ceiling and slide open the massive front doors to the patio in an attempt to exchange the steam and heat from the machines with the gritty air of the street.
Scoops of ice ping and crinkle under syrupy espresso, gelato is scooped neatly into small, footed dishes with little silver spoons, by young people, college aged, getting by on their tips and day old pastry.
Behind the counter, at the big machine, the one imported from Italy, the coppery monster covered in dials and gauges, at the center of the mayhem, is Antonio. He owns the shop, or rather, his father does, but it’s his and if you know what to look for, you can see him everywhere in the details. He is gruff and impatient, speaking only to demand answers or results from his team of baristas. He makes the new staff stammer, sometimes cry, he rewards the loyal staff that last more than a season with an occasional wry smile or a hessian sack of plums from his yard at home. Once I saw him bring in a cloudy bottle of homemade limoncello and he let them have it with seltzer, over ice, while they worked.
Most mornings this summer I have stood in line for my cafe Americano and hazelnut biscotti and watched Antonio work. His hands are the most captivating because they move on pure muscle memory, smart and quick, a silvery scar across the last two knuckles of his left, the ring finger of his right is slightly bent as if it were broken once. This morning I am watching him make my coffee, I watch him and he never looks up, never sees me, never has any indication from how my lip is pinioned between my teeth, that I am imagining his hands on my body, there in the shop, alone in the heat. I imagine those rough hands tweaking my nipples as I watch him flip switches and turn dials. He tamps the coffee tightly, and I feel the flutter and flush between my legs as I imagine his thick fingers tapping roughly against my lips. I watch the slow beads of sweat drop off the dark curls at the side of his neck and long to taste them, to lick his thick neck and feel his calloused hand push inside of me, to hear him growl something filthy in Italian against my chest.
My daydream shatters and I look up, startled.
“Take your coffee.”
He’s grinning as he motions towards my cup. I feel my cheeks burn, as if he has heard my thoughts, as if he knew what I craved, how I lusted for him. Our eyes meet and every cell in my body tingles. He winks, just once and turns away to bark directions at someone and the moment is over. I pay and find a seat as far from the counter as I can get.
*originally published July 2018