the familiar face
everything I know
“Does a man named Chuck get his coffee here?” I asked the Barista across the counter as she handed me my change and I threw it in her tip jar.
“Yes.” She said, her face suddenly sullen. I recognized her expression as that of disgust.
“Why did you say it like that?” I asked.
“I don’t trust him.” Was all she said. “If I could just know to not let him back in, I would tell him to get his coffee elsewhere…”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s a creep. He doesn’t know those two little girls he’s trying to lure onto his lap are related to me… they are two and four, and I see the way he’s looking at them. When they aren’t here he gets his coffee and joins all of his friends outside…when they are here he stands outside the window and stares at them, and I recognize the way he’s looking at them….then he sits in the corner forever thinking I’m not noticing that he’s trying to lure the two-year-old to his lap… He has no business interacting with them. I don’t want him back in my store….if I could just KNOW that he wasn’t safe around children…then I wouldn’t let him come back, but all I have are red flags and nothing else to go on…”
My stomach was in knots as she spoke. In many ways she was verbalizing one of my worst fears. I thought of everything…all the puzzle pieces that had fallen into place. All these years in my heart I imagined Chuck was allowed to be free to do as he had always done…why wouldn’t he be? There had never been any consequence…After everything that happened in Eglon, and with his daughter, and myself, and the others…the town meeting….the “we’ll make sure he’s never alone with them” presumptuous promises of protection that were empty words to the little girl I once was…
“You can know…he’s not safe around girls,” I confirmed to her.
“How do you…?”
“He was my childhood best friends dad…” I blurted. “I grew up with him…I used to know his lap well…” There was a time saying such a thing out loud would have left me feeling disgusting, the same disgusting that I used to feel at eight years old, leaving his living room to stand out at the bus stop…staring at my shadow, wondering if anyone else knew how dirty I was.
“Thank you…I knew it.” She said.
“When does he come in? I’ll take care of it for you…I would like the chance to talk to him…it’s been since his son’s funeral years and years ago that I last saw him.”
“He’ll be in tomorrow.” She said. “Around 8 or 9 in the morning.”
TO BE CONTINUED…