Black Tea & Green Eyes : A Short Story, Part 1

I walked in and joined the single file queue that strung its way up to the serving counter. I was here to buy some leaf tea; a new adventure for me. The line wasn’t moving so I looked to the front to see what the holdup was: a fellow customer, notably indecisive, and stammering over his words like a buffoon. I became instantly annoyed with his ineptitude. He must have, at some point, been here at the end of the line where I stood now before his station in life had improved. Thus, he must have had ample time to decide which teas he’d be purchasing- but there he was, looking surprised and stupefied to be at the front of the line. Apparently he hadn’t considered that at some point the cashier might ask him what he wanted – imbecile!

I shouldn’t have judged him – I was liable to make the same mistake if I squandered all my time observing and judging the people in front of me. My therapist says that I lack meaningful relationships in my life because I’m too judgmental of others. Empathy for the idiots surrounding me was something I was working on.

I was here to buy leaf tea. I don’t usually buy tea, but when I do it comes from the grocery store in a large box containing already packed little sachets. Even then, I don’t buy tea often because a single box lasts me quite some time because I’m the only one drinking it, and not so frequently either. I may make myself a cup on a rainy Saturday morning when I don’t want to get out of bed. To be honest, I think I like tea more for the warmth it brings to my bed than for any other reason; I’d be equally satisfied drinking a cup of hot water, but in an attempt to broaden my horizons, as per my therapists instructions, I was standing here in line to purchase what were apparently some “exotic” or otherwise “rare” teas.

I didn’t know which tea I would buy, and rather than risk looking The Puzzled Fool like our friend at the front, I thought I’d better start my research now. “What kind of leaf tea is similar to the tea I currently drink?” I thought. I wasn’t interested in trying anything too different from my regular brand – I just wanted a nice, calm, warm cup of tea that I could cuddle up to while reading a book, or contemplating my perpetual loneliness, or whatever it is you’re supposed to do when drinking tea.

“I think the kind I get from the store is called orange pekoe…” I mumbled to myself.

“What’s that?” said a voice over my shoulder. I startled a bit and turned to find someone had joined the queue behind me.

“Oh nothing,” I smiled “I was just talking to myself. Excuse me.” I felt a little embarrassed to have been caught talking aloud again, but evidently not enough to stop me from continuing to do so. “Hmmm…does orange pekoe contain an orange flavour?  I don’t think -”

The voice blasted over my left shoulder again “Couldn’t help but overhear, mate. Orange Pekoe doesn’t taste like orange; a bit misleading I’m afraid. It’s more or less just a fancy name for black tea-”

“Yes, I know -Thank you, sir! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to speak aloud just then, it’s a bad habit I have. It’s not a bad habit in the sense that I’m trying to curb it; it’s a bad habit in that strangers seem to be overwhelmed by temptation to interrupt my train of thought by interjecting their unsolicited comments… so please, do pardon me!”

I was probably a bit too curt with him. It wasn’t his fault. Some people just think they know everything and can’t help themselves from spewing thoughts on to anyone within ear shot. I would try to contain my thoughts within my skull as to not bait my neighbour into interrupting me again. The waffling stooge at the front had paid and left and my time for deciding on teas was running out.

Orange Pekoe, I thought silently this time, was probably just a fancy name for black tea. I supposed I could ask the cashier when I got to the front of the line, which I now found myself near the middle of, but I’d better have a couple backup teas in mind in case they didn’t have anything close to my usual brand.

The menu above the counter had a heading that read “Black Leaf Tea”. I supposed starting my research there would be prudent: Kenyan Tinder, Black Jasmine Pearl, and Earl Grey…How was I to know which to choose with unhelpful titles like those! I presumed that “Kenyan Tinder” would have tasted like or actually been made from sticks from Africa, so I ruled that out. I didn’t know what to make of something that sounded as complicated as Jasmine Black Pearl, which left me with Earl Grey, something that I’d actually heard of before. That sounded reasonably like something I’d-

“Hi, there, what can I get you today?” the voice, though sweet, shattered my concentration, which had evidently been intense because I now found myself face-to-face with the cashier. We were divided by the glass display case of teas.

** To be continued **

JL Cleaver

JL Cleaver is a Toronto based writer. We think he's one of the best writers you should get to know immediately. Please follow him on twitter.

Add comment

We are likeable

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.