By Guest Contributor Mallory Smith.
It was an uneventful day at Starbucks. I was on bar and John was ringing, but with no customers we were finding miscellaneous trivial tasks to make ourselves look busy while Danny mopped the floor under us forcefully, as he does everything. The silence was broken when a young man came up to the counter and flatly asked John for an application. Taking the paper, he began filling it out, but shortly found himself cotton-mouthed as he returned to the counter to ask me for a cup of water. My aloof impression of him was redeemed when he was somehow excited that I offered ice and he thanked me considerably. As I was putting the lid on his water, Danny beside me focused on the floor and John a few more steps away brewing coffee, the application boy slowly reached out his arms and put both his hands over our tips jars. I watched him, in a daze, and quietly wondered at his interesting kindness to push our overflowing dollars back into their rightful place. My natural assumption was quickly dismissed when he started pulling the dollars out of the tip jar and with change flying and dollars in hands, he bolted out the door. Before I could gather my ruptured thoughts, Danny and John were already less than five feet behind him in the parking lot.
I stood over the freshly poured and lidded water, stunned. As I stared at the quarters and dimes interspersed over the floor, I wondered at the stabbing pain in my back, the ache in my heart, and the tears that were slowly making their way out of my eyes and down my cheeks. It wasn’t loss, anger, or shock that pained me so; it was deception. The young man had extended his hand toward me and after short hesitation I extended my hand in return. His deceptive charm lured me to favor; I liked him. I know our interaction lasted five minutes max and carried a total of fifteen exchanged words, but it was a friendly acquaintanceship, the type that is understood between a grateful customer and a generous employee. The shred of a relationship (that was obviously never really there) was shattered, however, when I realized that his seeming flattery was nothing short of depraved malice. His kindness was a tool to inflict pain.
Danny and John made their way back into the store: Danny repeating to himself a seven-digit license plate number while rummaging for a pen and paper, and John heading toward the register to help the flustered and now antsy customers. As I poured Vanilla Bean Frappuccinos and concocted Chai Tea Lattes, I pondered the effect the boy’s actions had on me. I considered the affects of deception, and I was reminded of a similar story. I wondered what it would be like to run into a close friend during the weakest and most anguished moment of your life and to have that friend kiss you on the cheek, demonstrating his affection, love, and support, affirming the fact that he has your back. I can imagine that kiss washing over you with warm reassurance, serving to somewhat ease your present distress, telling you that you are not alone. I wondered what sort of unbearable pain would embrace you as you realize that the kiss of your so-thought friend was not one of kindness, but of deception. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to realize that the sign of affection that brought you cherished comfort, was actually a means to cause you great sorrow, a tool to inflict upon you the torment that you dreaded. It is perplexing; the hurt of betrayal, the pain of deception has bruised even the greatest of men.
Mallory Smith lives in Simi Valley, California. She is a post-college,
aspiring writer who is trying to figure out what it means to grow up.