28: A Cup of Comfort

28: A Cup of Comfort

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

A Cup of Comfort

Friends are those rare people who ask how you are and then wait for the answer.

~Author Unknown

In my early college years, I worked at a little Starbucks coffee shop in my community. I loved the feeling of pulling my hair up into a high bun and putting my focus and care into creating each cup of joy. When the nights were slow, I would make myself tea and review my notes behind the bar. It was comforting to look out over the steamer and see one or two students enjoying their lattes and focusing passionately on their homework. When we closed up for the night, I would take a hot chocolate home with me and sit at my desk into the late hours, feeling comforted and encouraged to focus on my writing.

On lonely nights, I would indulge in steamers — steamed milk with flavored syrup — a beverage I learned about from a customer. One night, the shop was empty, and I was just getting ready to close when that same customer came rushing in.

“Are you still open?” Her eyes were red as if she had been crying and her long hair was caught in her sweater as if she had just pulled it on.

I couldn’t say no.

“We just closed down the espresso machine, but I could still steam milk if you want a hot chocolate or steamer,” I offered.

The girl didn’t hesitate. “I need two raspberry steamers please.”

“No problem,” I said. “They are on us today.”

I felt compelled to steam the milk as quickly as I could. She could tell.

“My best friend had a bad day,” she explained.

When the girl left the store, I remember feeling numb. I couldn’t think of one person in my life who would go through that much trouble to bring comfort to me. I can’t remember if I took home a raspberry steamer that night because I was in the mood for a hot beverage or because I wanted to feel included.

It was hard to leave the comfort that I had found in Starbucks. The baristas whom I had grown close to were all following different career routes as they finished their college years. I remember watching them move onto new experiences and deciding that it might be time for me to move on too.

I was hired at a restaurant in the same community as my Starbucks a few months after applying. I loved serving from the start. I felt a sense of pride when I picked up a tray of drinks and would stride down my aisle smiling and assigning them to the right tables.

When Cathleen showed up for her shift at the restaurant, I was excited to see her. We had worked together at Starbucks and were familiar with each other. I was more than happy to share some appetizers with her after work.

I don’t remember when small talk over appetizers turned into late night bonding sessions over chick flicks and a bottle of wine, but by the time summer rolled around, Cathleen and I had become inseparable. We got along well with each other’s friends and shared a lot of the same quirks, such as our love of wearing new dresses and a terrible sense of direction.

Cathleen helped me through a lot of hard times that summer. I had experienced a bad break-up and found out that a childhood friend was really ill. Just when I thought I was pulling through my grandpa got cancer and dementia. It was Cathleen who kept me going. She never tried to play psychologist with me or to make me forget about it by dragging me out of the house. We kept hanging out in our free time as usual. On the hard nights, Cathleen would share noodles and wine with me as we caught up on the television series that had hooked me.

I had been having a particularly rough week that summer, and I remember looking forward to plans with Cathleen. We decided that it would be nice to sit out on a patio and let our skin bronze as we caught up with all the gossip that had been going on at work and the previous weekend’s party. We decided that it would be fitting to bond over Starbucks coffees since we had originally met there.

When we had chosen the perfect table in the sun, Cathleen offered to buy the drinks. I was indecisive on what to order and told her that I would be happy with whatever she chose. It wasn’t long before my best friend returned, two raspberry steamers in hand.

~Crysta Windsor

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