She sat at the single table at a far corner of the Starbucks, sipping on her latte while completing an unfinished assignment for her business class: a 17-page paper on the similarities between the economy of now and what it was during The Great Depression. She originally had thought the assignment was going to be her dissertation. But, no, the professor deemed it as an entirely separate paper. Oh joy.
She glanced at her watch. Her date was running late. Again. Third time this week he said he would meet at a specific time but shows up a minimum of a half hour late. Men. She let out a quick sigh. No need to fret over this one, she thought, you have that handsome film student you met last month who clearly thinks you’re the bees knees to fall back on. She shrugged and continued her paper.
Seven additional pages now complete, and two cups of coffee later, her phone chimes. Oh look, a text from him: “Hey babe. Sorry I’m sending this so late but I’ve got a late lunch with the bosses. Couldn’t get out of it. Will make it up to you tomorrow night.” Yea, holding my breath doesn’t sound fun at all. She blacks her screen and then proceeds to collect her things, stopping to urinate before heading back to her Brooklyn apartment.
The bathrooms in any Starbucks reminded her of the closet in her room- brightly lit, well kept, but too cramped to fully function. Propping up her laptop bag against the door she then pulled down her Levi’s, noticing the small grate next to the door, which she always assumed was the heating vent, was slightly ajar.
Finishing her business she lifts her jeans back onto her waist, her eyes never leaving the grate in fear a giant sewer rat decided to jump out of hiding. Washing her hands, drying them, and then grabbing her bag, she continued to watch the grate like a hawk. Just as she opened the door something inside caught her attention, prompting her to freeze in place momentarily.
At first she thought it really was a sewer rat but saw no red, evil beady eyes staring back. Upon further inspection she noticed several white cornered edges between two black ones. She knelt down, rather curious now, and opened the grate. Inside, it was cleaner than she had anticipated. Not to mention shallow; it led nowhere, which meant no rat could ever emerge from within unless it originated from inside the Starbucks.
With the light overhead basking the inside of the grate more clearly she discovered that it was a book. The cover was, in fact, black. Plain, with no lettering, pictures, nothing, on it. She slowly reached in and took it out. No dust was present- someone recently placed it there…perhaps today? She thought as her memory bank tried to replay the faces that had been here the past four hours. No dice; too many people. After all, it was a Monday afternoon in Manhattan.
Still kneeling, she opened the book to the cover page. “I hope that someday the words written on these pages help satisfy a woman’s curiosity of a man’s mind” was written in lovely handwriting. Flipping to the next page she read the first sentence and the words made her breath catch in her throat.
She closed the book with a slam, stuffed it into her laptop bag, and raced out of the Starbucks like she had just committed murder but in fact what she had in her possession seemed, at first glance (and who can really judge something with just one glance, huh?) more telling than any government secret that could ever be revealed.
The train ride home went by swifty. She threw the keys into the door of her apartment, turned it, and upon entering slammed the door behind her, immediately preparing a pot of coffee. Generic beans, sure, but anything would suffice should those pages be as interesting as that first sentence.
With the coffee now done she poured it into her favorite mug mixing in her half and half with three tablespoons of sugar, and set it down on the table in front of the Ikea couch she loved so much. Grabbing her laptop bag she fished in the small pocket in the front, retrieved the black book, and took a seat in the far left corner of the couch, turning back to that first page.