From a Coffee Shop in White Suburbia

Michael Saltouros

Michael Saltouros

"bacons on it's way," says the tall greek
behind the counter through his thick mustache,
which i can only guess contains years of scarred choke smoke and
failed marriage vows, coated in grease that soars in the air
and shimmies its way into the pores underneath his brown eyes
like mine, as jewel-osco bags filled with tanqueray bottles
drag the lids down. his name is probably george
or gus.

the aroma of my black coffee mixes with
the smell of the old man's leather jacket next to me,
years of closet posing, hanging out on the wire waiting to never
be washed. the local high school's hockey team just walked
in and expects to be seated immediately.

but did you know that if the cup is blacker than the
roast, when you finish you can see your reflection at
the bottom?
can you read my eyes the same way you read your tea leaves?
it's not hard. they're looking for answers, like
where the hell is the corn guy, blasting mariachi tunes and waiting
to glaze my pork rinds with his signature sauce?

it's okay, i still have the tapatío for my eggs,
so when the bacon fat is done sizzling on the stove, spraying into
george/gus's eyes, i'll be here for my meal, though the
hockey team will have left by then because
15 minutes is too damn long of a wait.

i'll be honest with you now:

i'm the darkest one here, and i'm white, or at least that's what
the blackened bubble on my ACT reads. but i forgot to shave
yesterday,
so the old man next to me defiling in his shit brown leather jacket
looks at me funny, like he's scared i'm going to steal the tip he left
for the waitress. that's wrong, right? to assume what i'm not:
a thief, or a mexican. to him, what's the difference, though?

next time someone asks you where the
white people safe spaces are,
direct them to the seat my ass is keeping warm for them.

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