Do you have money today?
I... I can pay you tomorrow.
Ok, that's alright. Here's your coffee.
Bina, the lady I see almost every morning as I stop for my usual Dunkin' medium hazlenut with cream and sugar and a sprinkle donut, can come across as somewhat gruff. She is a fast talker, and has her hand out for my credit card before she has even finished ringing up my order. When the line for morning coffee is wrapped around the store, past the ice cream display, and almost out the door, Bina has little patience. NEXT! she hollers as customers struggle to shove wallets back in pockets and purses without getting in the way of the next order.
I have seen a sweeter side of Bina. The side that coyly asked if I was expecting two and a half years ago, when my order suddenly switched to "decaf hazlenut cream and sugar." The side that was delighted to see me come in, toting an infant in a carseat, when I went back to work after a few months absence. The side that smiled knowingly when I started asking for decaf once again a few months ago.
This morning, I truly realized the depth to Bina's sweetness. She asked the regular with a true kindness in her voice if perhaps this time, maybe, he had money to pay for his coffee. From the stutter in his voice as he answered tomorrow, I know that Bina has asked this question before, that he has answered "tomorrow" before. I am sure Bina rarely sees a penny for the hot coffee she hands to this man. She takes him at his word, without ever expecting anything in return.
One cup of coffee. A drop in the preverbial coffee pot for all the sales Bina makes day after day. One single cup of coffee. One cup of hot, warming coffee on a cold, drizzly morning.
This entire transaction took place in the 30 seconds it took for me to quickly shove my wallet into my purse before I walked out the door, coffee and donut in hand. I paused as I listened, wanting so much to pay for the man's breakfast. And there I stood. Suddenly shy. Suddenly tongue-tied. Blushing at my loss of words. I finished gathering my things, found my keys and hurried out.
I should have bought this man a coffee. I should have bought him a coffee and a sandwich and a Dunkin' gift card for the following mornings. I should have...
I tell myself, maybe... maybe tomorrow...