We get our milk deliveries to Mabel on Tuesdays from a vendor who is really bad at delivering milk. He doesn’t deliver other products. He only does dairy. And yet every week, his brusque taciturn cronies wheels in dollies stacked with crates and tell us that the vendor is out of skim, out of yogurt, out of cream, and that perhaps later in the week they will bring some by. It’s not the cronies’ fault, and usually the botched delivery isn’t immediately catastrophic, so we baristas mostly smile and nod and say, “Sure thing, okay” to what we all find an unreasonable and very funny chronic problem.
The usual delivery men–they are all men–greet us baristas–we are all women–with a grunt and a “ladies.” Sometimes we get a “ma’am” or even a “sweetheart.” They always seem like they’re in a hurry, and they always leave a wrinkled, damp invoice on the counter pulled from one of their back pockets. And they all wear shirts that say MILK MAN on the back. With a space in the middle.
But then came the summer day when you sauntered in, rolling that dolly full of crates, wearing that dumb MILK MAN shirt. You’d pushed the long sleeves up to your elbows (good call), and your eyes were bright and happy. And on top of the milk crates was a clipboard with the invoice on it. I was captivated.
“Hi, there! I’ll just stick these in the back for you and be right back with the invoice.” How did you even know where our fridge was? Damn, you were good.
As I signed for the delivery and received the crisp, dry invoice, it came up that we were both from Puyallup. There’s no reason for someone from Puyallup to speak with an accent, but you did; you talked country. Your voice nearly drawled. Your jaw was chiseled, and I didn’t know if you were my age or ten years younger, but I assumed and hoped you were my age because you carried yourself so confidently.
I offered to make you a drink. I used to offer our delivery people drinks all the time, but then I got lazy and stopped doing it, so this was special.
You said, “Can I have a water?” and I said, “That’s all?” and you said, “Yes, please.”
I gave it to you and you said, “Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.”
“Sure. Water is easy. You just put it in a cup.”
“Wanna see something?” you say, ignoring that and pulling out your phone.
You scrolled through your photos.
“My dog just had puppies,” you said. You showed me a photo of six or eight or four newborn black Labradors. We kind of had to stand next to each other to see.
“Shut up,” I said. “Those are adorable.”
“Yeah, they’re brand new.”
“No. Shut up. Those are… Labs?”
“You’re a… grandpa!”
“I know!” you chuckled. “At first I thought, ‘I’m a dad!’ But now I realize I am a grandpa.”
“Well, congrats, Grandpa!”
“Thank you! And thanks for this.” You raised your cup of water and left.
The next week, you made the delivery again.
“How are the puppies?” I asked.
“They’re great. They’re about to open their eyes!”
“Nice! And are you keeping them, or giving them to people?”
“I’m selling them, yeah. I’ve already sold them. All to people in my church.”
This caused an adrenaline spike:
CHURCH CHURCH CHURCH CHURCH CHURCH CHURCH HE GOES TO CHURCH I NEVER MEET BOYS WHO GO TO CHURCH HOW RARE TO MEET SOMEONE WHEN I AM NOT AT CHURCH WHO GOES TO CHURCH I WONDER WHAT IS THE NATURE OF HIS FAITH AND IF HE HAS WEIRD BAGGAGE AND IF HE EVER DID A MISSION TRIP AND IF HE KNOWS VERSES TO HYMNS AND IF WE ARE EQUALLY—
“But I was gonna say,” he was continuing—I missed the first part—“just that we didn’t have any of the whipping cream y’all buy so we substituted Smith Brothers, and we didn’t have marionberry yogurt—” you pronounced it mare-n-bare— “so I gave you lemon and didn’t charge you.”
YOUR NAME IS I THINK COLTON? RUSS? HENRY? YOU GO TO CHURCH DO I WORK NEXT TUESDAY I SHOULD OFFER YOU WATER—
“Have a nice week,” you said.
I thought how quaint it’d be to fall in love with a milkman. I suppose I could do quaint. How sweet, the barista and the milkman, a lovely, salt of the earth love story, just two honest simple folks from Puyallup meeting over milk and starting a life together…
Anyway, I never saw you again.