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Coffee


“I feel like we should say something” Troy said.


“Not our problem” Damien responded.


They were working the coffee stand at the fifth annual Conference for Technology in Finance. The cavernous reception hall was filled with stands from various companies with interchangeable names like ChangeNet, BlockSphere, and CryptoFlow. Not that any of this interested Troy and Damien, the only thing they cared about was getting paid at the end of the day and collecting as many free pens from the stands as they could.


“Look, here he comes again.” Troy pointed out the middle-aged man in a a sky blue shirt with the logo for his company stitched on the right breast. He had a wide-eyed, glazed-over look in and it looked like he'd lost quite a bit of hair over the years, more than you would expect someone his age to have lost. The man had ordered coffee from them 8 times today and it wasn't even 13:00 yet. Double espressos too.


“Just give it to him.” Damien impatiently replied.


The man didn't quite look Troy in the eye when he ordered the coffee. It felt like he wasn't even aware that Troy was there. As if the man had conditioned himself to walk to this specific part of the conference hall and say this specific combination of words and would then be rewarded with a coffee. Troy turned around to the coffee machine and placed a plastic cup beneath the dispenser.


Right as he was about to press the button, he had a vision of the man taking a sip of the cup, clutching his heart and collapsing onto the counter in front of Troy. Troy would go around and pull the man off the counter and gently lie him down and the man would open his eyes briefly before whispering:


“Why didn't you stop me?” Then the man would convulse and die immediately. Troy would look at Damien and a crowd would gather around him, all staring at him judgementally for murdering this man by giving him too much coffee.


He didn't press the button and instead turned back to the man:


“You sure you don't want to wait a little before getting another one?”


The man hadn't listened to what he said and tried handing him a pound coin, still not making eye contact, still going through the motions of the transaction. Troy could sense Damien's icy stare but he knew he wouldn't get involved.


“Sir?”


The man, sensing that something had not gone according to plan, snapped out of whatever daze he was in and turned to look at Troy.


“You sure you don't wait for a little bit before getting another one?”


The man looked at him for a few more seconds. It was weirdly tense. Right as Troy decided to just the give the man his coffee, the man quietly began to cry. He sobbed softly at first, one hand on his face, the other on the counter, but his sobbing soon turned into a full-on wail. Troy tried to calm him down as he was drawing the attention of the people in the area.


“Sir, please don't, stop...please, stop, I'll get you your coffee.”


But there was no stopping it. The man got onto his knees and buried his face into his hands, crying, as years of repressed stress, anger, sadness and anxiety poured out of him, the floodgates opened by the interest of one stranger.


A small crowd gathered around now. Some simply stared in disbelief, a few were chuckling, one or two were filming him on their smartphones. Troy was beginning to wonder if he would rather have just given the man a heart-attack.


“Sir, please, people are watching, please stop.”


Troy couldn't tell if it was his pleading that did it or if it came to a natural end but the man's crying did gradually halt. He wiped his eyes and slowly got to his feet. The crowd around him dispersed, only a few of the most shameless voyeurs staying to see how this would ultimately wrap up. The man didn't seem to mind. He took in a big breath, turned to Troy and whispered:


“Thank you.” He then slowly walked away from the coffee stand and back into the conference hall. Before Troy had time to reflect on what happened, Damien walked up to him and softly but firmly said:


“From now on, just give people their damn coffee.”


Troy nodded, glad for the whole interaction to be over.


Neither Troy nor Damien saw the man for the rest of the day.

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