#22
      The "NAME OF ISSUE" Issue

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Barista

     by Meg Pokrass

That night, it was just me and the barista. Everyone else was finally gone. He was standing in the middle of the social area, waiting for the world to quiet down so he could serve me properly. I stood right next to him at his invisible espresso bar, holding his hand in the wilting light.

Earlier, I was worried about the teenager. I heard her on the phone with her mother. “No, no, no! You aren’t hearing me! I’m not staying here over fucking, fucking Christmas!”

And then she cried. Christmas had most of us all by the neck. She slammed her not-smart phone onto the floor, a sad little crazy thing, so I asked her if she wanted a cup of something. "Espresso," she said.

"A shot for the young lady," I said to the barista. In a way, she belonged to all of us.

He looked like a confused nurse, as if it was time for treatment, but he'd forgotten who to treat. "Tell your family that it wasn't so bad here?" he said

Somehow, the barista heard that one of us was going to be released. "Must be you," he said. This was right, I was scheduled, but I wasn't sure that I wanted out.

"Tell them about the drinks I made you."

"Promise," I said.

Holiday cards were being taped to the wall near the TV by a nurse I had never seen before.

"I have to die here for everyone," he said. He said this every day. I had gotten used to him saying it.

I looked at the teenager. She sat on the floor, her arms protecting herself. Soon, she’d walk around the social area asking everyone if they found her to be physically beautiful. Each and every one of us would tell her that we did.





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