She opened her handbag and tipped the contents onto the floor. Out spilled the jumbled up artifacts of her life: a half-used tube of MAC lipstick, an expired debit card, a tortoiseshell comb, a single dangling blue stone earring, a menu from the Dim Sum restaurant on 17th. Frantically, she shifted the items around, searching. Little animal noises of panic started to rise in her throat and a thread of sweat trickled down the back of her vintage Chanel suit.
Having finished sorting through the items on the ground and not finding what she wanted, Tammy started digging through her black Chanel bag again. A small crowd had grown around her in the downtown Starbucks, respectfully circumventing her flailing limbs and the spreading pile of personal possessions at their feet. A silver pen rolled away under the cold case, and a young girl started to retrieve before catching her mother’s eye signaling to let it be. No one in the crowd moved to help Tammy, who felt hot tears welling up in the back of her throat.
At the front of the shop, in a big overstuffed leather chair with huge Boston ferns on either side, Remi tried unsuccessfully to ignore the disruption erupting near the cash register and continue her morning routine. She glanced up from her laptop, removing the earbuds from her ears. It was hard to know what to make of this woman on her knees in the busy coffee shop, her life spilled out all over the floor for the world to see. She had access to money, that was plain to see, either her’s or someone else’s. That was a $6000 suit she had on, and Remi could see the telltale red bottoms of her Louboutin heels as she kneeled on the floor. But Remi was close enough to catch a few curious details. The woman had no watch nor jewelry. No rings, no necklace. She didn’t have a manicure, and Remi could see the naked, ragged edges of her chewed-up nails. Perhaps most distracting, about a quarter inch of dark brown roots showed in her platinum blonde hair, which was pulled back into a low ponytail and fastened with a simple elastic. Remi pondered the contradiction and figured the woman hadn’t been able to groom herself to her usual standards for a while.
Remi proudly considered herself a low maintenance woman. She hated wearing a bra, shaving her legs, or putting on makeup. That morning, she wore faded black skinny jeans, the same Doc Marten boots she’d had for a decade, a burgundy tank-top, and one of her husband’s flannels. Her sandy brown hair hung in a loose braid down the back of her chair. These days, she kept it long so she could cut it herself. Years ago, she had ridden that carousel of salons and styling tools. She put on a full face of makeup every day, wore sharp three-inch heels and wiggle dresses, and owned a well-used set of vintage hot rollers. It was fun but exhausting, and she preferred to spend her creative energy on her painting, a form of expression she found endlessly energizing and rewarding.
On the floor, Tammy was crying openly now, the thin veneer of self-control she had dutifully put on this morning completely dissolved like foam on a cappuccino. Losing her wallet was the last in a series of amazingly disastrous events for Tammy, and she was fading under the weight of it all. She had no ID, no credit card, no cash. And no flash drive for her job interview in 45 minutes. She had downloaded her presentation this morning and stuck the tiny storage device on the keyring of her wallet. On the bus this morning, she used the annual pass card she kept in an outside pocket of her purse. So, of course, she hadn’t needed her wallet until now, trying to pay for a precious cup of coffee. She couldn’t afford this luxury, anyway, and was only here because her own coffeepot had slipped from her nervous hand this morning and shattered on the kitchen floor. And there was no way she was going to another job interview without some liquid fortification. That was the least she could do for herself; except for her strategically preserved purse, suit, and shoes, everything was most certainly working against her. Tears streaming down her face, she started scooping her belongings together into a loose pile. Gradually people stopped staring at Tammy and slipped back into the stream of daily life, the line of customers waiting to order snaking to the right to accommodate her place in front of the register.
Remi’s curiosity was piqued. What was this woman’s story? She didn’t seem to be on drugs, which was the most common reason she had observed for one to dump one’s purse and/or bag out on the floor of a Starbucks. The woman had quieted down considerably and, except for the tears Remi saw running down her cheeks, seemed calm. Resigned, Remi thought.
Standing, Remi approached the counter. “What this lady needs,” she said to herself, “is a cup of coffee.”
I’m writing 750+ words a day of fiction and publishing them here for the next 100 days. These are written quickly with minimal editing and based off a daily prompt.
Day 8 // Prompt (first line): She opened her handbag and tipped the contents onto the floor…
Originally published at stasiland.blogspot.com.