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Cyber Cafe Romance

Cyber Cafe Romance


Once upon a time I decided to open a cyber cafe. I had a vague idea that I could turn my expensive coffee habit into a money-making venture.

I found a guy online who was selling all his old cafe equipment. I borrowed a big truck and drove three hours one way to pick up all his equipment: bistro tables, chairs, dishes, espresso machine, a couple three-bay stainless steel sinks. Basically I bought a small cafe, piled it in the truck, and drove it home.

(Before we go any further, I want to make it clear – I have no background in business. In fact, you could say I have no business being in business. My degree, from a million years ago, was in Cultural Anthropology with an undeclared minor in Ancient Greek and Classical Literature. Be forewarned.)

Things went surprisingly well – but then again, my only real goal was to write off my expensive habit of drinking too much espresso and make enough money doing so to not be in the red. It worked, especially after I added ice cream to the mix.

But people kept coming in asking for technical support for their broken computers. The previous tenant was operating a computer repair shop before he disappeared, on the run from the law – attempting to escape a shockingly large child support debt.

Anyways, it seemed like adding computer repair might be a great idea, since people kept asking for help. I did an online course and got my A+ certification (yes, long time ago, mmmhhmmm) and added “Computer Repair & Maintenance” to the cafe sign. Soon the business was booming. I hired one of the geeky regulars to give me a hand.

Rick was great. He loved people, loved helping, loved computers. (It would be a year later that I would discover he also loved eating on my company account, and managed to deplete the entire trade ledger I had with a local restaurant before anyone called me to ask why Rick kept signing his name as “Jennifer” on 50+ meals. But I digress.)

Rick also loved Bethany.

Bethany was a gorgeous young mother and my assistant graphic designer. She was shockingly beautiful as well as sweet, smart and kind. She was also an evangelical Christian, which Rick didn’t really understand. Rick was clueless, one of those kids who grew up with no organized religion and had a vague belief in “God” and most likely self-identified as “Christian” but really had no idea how different that was from an evangelically-saturated upbringing. He didn’t’ stand a chance.

He mooned, he swooned, he made her special coffees. He took obsessive care of her computer, left pink and purple sticky notes with little jokes. He started shaving, dressing better, wearing his good sneakers.

It hurt my stomach to watch the events unfold. It’s hard to watch even a little love story implode.

He’d been talking about it for weeks. He was going to tell her about his love, he confided in me. He would offer to raise her son, he would let her know his love was pure and clear and clean as the driven snow. I cautioned him, but he didn’t listen.

One day Bethany came in even more radiant than usual. I remember her lipstick, a deep and velvet red, unforgettable against her pale, perfect skin. I saw Rick’s feverish eyes and sleep-deprived agitation. I remember this day as the last good day of our little cafe’s life.

To this day, I don’t know exactly what transpired in that fateful afternoon. I was afraid to ask either of them for details.

But I know he confessed his undying love for her, and after that moment, everything changed.

Rick returned to his slovenly ways, dressing like a homeless computer nerd. He started staying up till 4am playing online computer games, and started coming in late, if at all. His face, normally a little pale, took on a shade of light greenish-grey and the shadows under his eyes grew cavernous. His cats (yes, his cats) started having massive medical issues that required constant emergency trips to the vet. One female kept going into heat and required that he spend all day at home with her, keeping her from – what? I never dared ask. I didn’t want to know.

Bethany abruptly stopped wearing makeup of any kind to work. No more deep red velvet lips. In fact, it turned out that much of her striking beauty was outcome of great makeup application. She turned muted and monochromatic, and in rather short order, gave her two weeks notice: she was getting married to a large, corn-fed, Bible-thumping local rancher’s son and moving to Bible Grove, Missouri. (Not a joke, they still live there to this day).

The poor cyber cafe couldn’t survive the loss, and honestly I didn’t have the heart to keep it going. Rick “bought” the computer repair business (which means he still owes me money, some fifteen years later). I sold the equipment a bit at a time, here and there, to other aspiring cafe wanna-be’s, eager to open their own thriving little establishment, with stars in their eyes and dreams in their pockets.

I wished them all the best of luck.

I also advised them to not hire more than one employee at a time.

What I am pondering:

“Love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

It’s most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea”
— E. E. Cummings

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