I know that I’m not supposed to like Starbucks, the evil empire.  They have squeezed out the mom and pop shops.  They’re intrusive.  Expensive.  Hire mostly part-time workers.  But damn if their coffee isn’t tasty.  And it’s an addiction I’m willing to pay for.  Imagine how much heroine costs, or marijuana.  For that matter, look at the cost of most prescription drugs, of which I take zero.  So this is how I justify the five-dollar cup of joe.  I say to my wife, “Hey, I could be spending that money on hookers!”

“A five-dollar hooker?” she replies.

“How would I know?”

Typically, I get the black eye, which is brewed coffee with a shot of espresso.  I grab the organic apple juice and a pastry.  I then join the crowd of jerkoffs on their computers and act like I’m up to something big.  I’m not.  I’m writing crap like this and getting high on caffeine.  I watch the people come inside and wonder where they go.

Right now it’s 8:23 a.m. in Oakland, California, and there are eight people in line.  There are cops and men in reflective vests.  There’s a black girl with hair like Cindy Loo Hoo, and she has no idea that I’m writing about her.  There’s a Vietnam vet (I know because he’s wearing a hat), and a very important man in a cell phone conversation.

Seeing the hat reminds me of war.  And now I’m wondering if anyone is wearing a bomb.  I’ve been to the Middle East, and I thought about this more then.  If not a bomb, I wonder if people are packing heat, or mace.  There’s a lady who must weight three-hundred pounds, and I’m quite certain that she’s packing ass.  Boom!

Okay, that wasn’t nice.  I’m sure she has a thyroid disorder.  But seriously, most of the folks are overweight.  Even the cop has a gut.  He’s standing right in front of me now, eating an egg sandwich and looking out the window, scanning for criminals I imagine.  I bet if I steal his gun and call him fatty he won’t be able to catch me.  Looking at his belt, I’m wondering how I’d do that.  His pistol is all snapped in tight, and so what if I don’t make a clean pull?  What if he kicks my ass in Starbucks, and some film student get’s it all on his cell phone and posts it to the web?  Imagine my immortal humiliation.  Okay.  He’s gone now, taking my temptations with him.  Still, I believe that I would have come out on top.

In walks a small black guy with a big-ass mug.  Christ, what’s he going to put in there?  It’s almost as big as that fat lady’s ass (who has a thyroid problem).

I look at all these wonderful people, and wonder if I can beat them up.  (The war-hat has put me in this mood.)   A fifty-year-old lady just walked by on her way to the restroom, giving me the evil eye.  Yeah, I could kick her ass for sure.

One bald guy, two bald guys, and a man in a blue trench coat at the end of the line.  I could take all three at the same time.  “Put ’em up, put ’em up!”

I’m not a violent person, seriously, they could easily be my friends.  But should they come at me and try to steal my wallet, I’m ready.  After all, they’re strangers, and they probably drive vans.  A bald man in a van, we’ve seen it all before.  They throw you in back and chop you up into bloody bits and pieces.  No way.  I’ve had my caffeine and I’m ready.  Bring it on, bitches.

But they don’t bring it on.  They get their coffee and walk away … to their vans.

This just in: the small black guy with the big-ass mug is drinking tea.  I walked up to the sugar counter to throw away my napkin, and took a peek inside.  There were several tea bags with steaming water, and he was pouring in sugar like a madman.

“Are you going to drink all of that?”

“What’s it to you, motherfucker?”

Okay, that conversation didn’t happen, but I imagine it would have had I asked.  He didn’t look the friendly, chatty type.

There’s a lady wheeling a suitcase, and there’s a guy at another table, looking at me.  Is he writing about me, too?  The sonofabitch.  Does he think he can kick my ass?  Does he want to be friends?  He’s old and frail and I think that I can take him.

I don’t always think this way, but I always sit with my back to the wall, and in a corner if I can.  An active part of my reptilian brain knows that there are dangers out there, and that if you’re not my friend you might well be my enemy.  You might think that this is a horrible way to go through life, but I’m fine with it.  Mankind is the monster beneath our beds.  They are the ghosts in the night.  That’s just the way it is.

There’s a criminal sitting down with a cap on his head.  I don’t trust him.  He’s shifty.

I prejudge everyone.  There’s a Mexican guy with a latte.  He’s out the door now and I know exactly where he’s going to work.  It’s a lazy and horrible to think, I know, but I’m fine with it.  There’s an attractive lady in spandex, and I know exactly how she’d be in bed.  Horrible of me to think this way, I know.

The shifty guy with the hat just got up to leave, and his pants are falling down.   Seriously, he’s walking away holding up his pants.  How could he possibly fight with his hands gripping jeans?  He’d put up his dukes and his pants would drop to his ankles.

The war has done this to me.  I spent fourteen years in the Marine Corps, and this is the thanks that I get.  Paranoia.  My back to the wall so that I can scan the room for dangers.  And no, I’m not a PTSD head case, thank you very much.  There’s residue, is all, and you learn to cope with it.

Archie is sitting next to me now.  I know because he’s wearing a name tag.  And there’s a motherly type with a dark coat and a burgundy purse.  She’s white.  She grabs her sandwich, and as she leaves she says “hi” to Archie.  Politely, perhaps a bit confused, he says “hi” back.  She stops and seems embarrassed.

“Oh, I sorry,” she says.  “I thought you were someone else.”

“That’s okay.”

“You look exactly like a guy I work with.”

“So, you’re saying that all black men look alike?”

No, Archie didn’t say that last sentence.  He probably thought it instead.

My coffee is almost done.  It was good.  Time to go and do something productive with my day.  I think I’ll work out, and then do some more writing.  I’m making corrections to a book.  It takes a lot of thought.  Perhaps I’ll come back for an afternoon cup.