Coffee Bar

My boyfriend hands me a white espresso cup balanced on its matching saucer. The cup is filled with coffee the color of soil. From the café bar he retrieves a small tumbler of sparkling water.

“To wash it down with,” he says with a wink. “To clear the palate.”

I think of sherbet, how no one but the educated pronounces the word as it’s spelled, and I smile. I don’t ask for milk or sugar, though I know without either, the espresso will taste too bitter to my tongue, too much like coffee.

“That face, darling,” my boyfriend says. “Don’t make it.”

I lift the cup to my mouth, coy-like. The walls of the cafe are tall and brick, the room cut in half by a staircase, the glow of patrons’ laptops swimming in the light. The girls behind the bar have on red lipstick, dresses with expensive buttons. If they were men, they would be wearing bowler hats and monocles or velvet waistcoats like the one my boyfriend sported last night. We’d gone to Disneyland to see the night-time parade.

“There are fireworks,” he told me on the drive over, in his Porsche that smelled like Father’s Day: shoe leather and new ties.

“Wow,” I said.

At the park’s entrance, he leaned into me as I pushed my way through the metal turnstile. He insisted we eat funnel cake, visit the singing parrots.

Later, as the fireworks exploded above our heads he said, “Tomorrow we’ll get coffee.”.

Now my boyfriend sips his own espresso and asks, “Why did you look so sad at Disneyland? Was it Anaheim that was getting to you?”

I imagine the coffee in my body, its tender sharp power spiking my blood, and I say nothing. He doesn’t know that, last night, I was counting the children in the crowd. One point for every happy one, two for every scared. How they covered their ears.

Edan Lepucki is the author of the novella If You’re Not Yet Like Me and a staff writer for The Millions. Her novel is forthcoming from Little, Brown in spring 2014.