by Sarena Ulibarri
Sarena Ulibarri is a fiction writer who lives in New Mexico. She attended the Clarion Workshop at UCSD in 2014 and earned her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she also taught Introduction to Creative Writing. Her writing has appeared in Lightspeed, Kasma SF, The Cafe Irreal, and elsewhere. Learn more at http://www.sarenaulibarri.com.
I was at the coffee house again. Watered by mocha lattes and black coffee with nutmeg, I was there so often I had almost taken root in the corner sofa. I planted myself there the day after my boyfriend left me, convinced that sitting near other people and drinking coffee was different from sitting at home and drinking alcohol.
A girl bumped into the table, sloshing my coffee over the rim in a tiny wave, and a book slipped out of her bag, thumping to the carpeted floor. I leaned over to pick it up, expecting to hand it straight over to her with a small “thanks” and quick nod. But she was gone, vanished, by the time I lifted the book off the floor. I placed it beside me on the sofa, used some napkins to mop up my coffee, and waited for her to come back. I had recognized her by the bulky backpack covered in political stickers. She was a regular at the coffee house, just part of the usual background, along with the big chalkboard menu and the photographs of old movie stars that lined the walls.
Half an hour later she still hadn’t returned to claim the book. Curious, I picked it up and turned it over. The hard cover was black, smooth and unmarked. I flipped open to a random page just long enough to recognize it was a journal, then snapped it shut, feeling scandalized for even that glimpse. How mortified would I be if some stranger read my journal! God, all that whining about not being loved, about losing my friends during the breakup, all those detailed analyses of Cosmo quizzes. Resolutely I set the book back on the sofa, and it sat quietly in its black binding.
When I was ready to leave, I walked up to the counter with the book. The barista looked at me with superficial recognition.
“Another mocha latte?” he asked.
“No, I’m about to go to work,” I said, then wished I hadn’t. I didn’t come here to make friends. “Hey, do you know the girl with the bumper stickers on her backpack?”
“Do I know her? No, I assume she’s a student here.”
Everyone who came here, besides me, was probably a student, and it was one of the reasons I chose it: no one would have any reason to know me.
“Sometimes I get you two confused, though,” he continued, “You look a lot alike.”
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