Every Friday we now have a routine. Nat and I drop Ben off at a weekly appointment and then we walk a few blocks to the Starbucks. Don't think we are walking together; Natty Longlegs moves just below the speed of light and gets there way ahead of me, beautifully stopping at the large intersection of Washington and Beacon and waiting for the Walk sign. Still, I say, "Nat, slow down! We're supposed to be walking together." As in-shape as I am, I am no match for him, 19-year-old tall pitcher of water, on his way to get a sweet treat.
He gets to the Starbucks and strides inside like he owns the place. I burst in shortly after, out of breath. Nat walks up to the counter and stares at the cookies behind the glass. The guy who works at that time knows us by now. He is expressionless, half of his face hidden behind a long dark beard and glasses. Nothing fazes this barista. Hey, what's to be fazed about anyway? With Nat he has one very happy, excited and regular customer.
I whisper to Nat, "Tell the man what you want but say it slowly and loud." Right away Nat says, speaking directly to the cookie case, "Chalkitchihcookies please!" The man stands there, blinking slowly. I walk over so that I'm standing right in front of him, gently pulling Nat to stand next to me. "Okay, say it again, Nat." "Chalkitchihcookies PLEASE." Always says please. The guy goes and gets the cookie. "Oh, and a small breve misto for me," I add.
Nat gets his cookie and gets a table right in the middle of the Starbux laptop scene. All these people working alone with their computers and their long-empty cups of coffee or tea. Nat plunks down, throws off his coat, and starts eating and whispering to himself. Occasionally he looks at me, a long look, which makes me feel happy. Because it is winter, he is snorting back his runny nose every few moments. Our neighbors are working away; after the initial startled glance at this very animated young man, they go back to work, keeping their thoughts (if they have any) well-hidden.
As soon as Nat is finished, he jumps up. He throws his bag away, and comes back to my table, standing over me, looking at me. "Nat, wait for me. Sit down." He sits, but he doesn't like it.
I decide to take the remainder of my coffee with me; it is close to the time when we have to get Ben anyway. I recap it and say, "Okay, let's go," releasing Nat back into the cold and now dark city sidewalk. And he's off.