Venti Dark Roast

Venti Dark Roast

A Story by Olivia R.H.

There are some moments so precious, it seems that the level of intensity in absorption of it should be applied elsewhere: to sadness, maybe, or anger. These moments belong in movies starring Jennifer Garner and Owen Wilson, cable shows where you know the “tough one” is going to break down, cry, and bro-hug the one he bullied.

As you replay these memories, you wonder, does my mind reshape these, dip them in gold, pull them through water like ristretto shots gleaned from original, dark espresso?

To lean pessimistically towards that possibility would be justifiable to my cynical brain. But now I have a counterargument: Venti Dark Roast.

When I first started working at the Calumet Avenue Starbucks, I didn’t recognize the power I had as a 20-second buffer between drinks and car at the drive-thru. Thus, that confidence that I could say whatever positive fluff I wanted, no matter how fake, hadn’t sunk in. Shy, my mind screamed, They’ll know you’re just a kid, they’ll know you’re just a kid, after each time I abruptly stopped chirping following the customary, “How is your da-ay?”

Venti Dark Roast would fly in with his beat-up junkyard pick-up snorting gruffly, his windows all the way down, his peeling hood trailing the Manitowoc mom’s shiny white tank of a SUV. He would accelerate fast, his cigarette always held lovingly in his left hand, lazily trailing smoke towards the nostrils, when he arrived at the window. In the beginning, upon seeing his yellow-toothed grin and falling-apart vehicle, I was too scared to make it past the greeting. All the commotion of my fellow coworkers surprised me. Overtime, I realized why they would excitedly huddle over his coffee and yell to him over my head. This customer, this old man with greasy gray hair shaped not unlike the streams you pass on mountain trails, what was all the attention towards him for?

Soon, I came to understand.

He wasn’t, and isn’t, just any customer.

Just like how some things, like the smell of coffee beans, can take on a new identity in your mind, he became Venti Dark Roast. At any fast-food restaurant, monotony can be the most dehumanizing, making customer after customer another order to type in and causing you to feel like a faceless road on which drive the customer’s desires. Venti Dark Roast unloads that yoke over the DTO barista’s shoulders. You see, he must always have a picture.

A picture, yes.

And, if you’ve done it right, you’ll get the widest eroding-tooth grin you could ever see. Then, he’ll gun the pedal and be gone in a flash, a bit like a sweaty Saint Nicholas. Dark hood replaced by star-bright Subaru.

With Venti Dark Roast, there is no wrong way. The weirder, the better. We’ve received crows of excitement over vampires, excited “ahhs” over rainbows, laughs over angry faces, and perplexed facial expressions over ambiguous designs leaving everyone on the scene in hysterics.

Forget dating syrup stickers; he’s the reason we keep Sharpies in our pockets.

All things considered, he’s a sunny spot in our day, something that makes Starbucks less monochromatic and more triadic.

That’s why this moment will always be one I’ll reach for and hold like a treasured mug.

It was a busy June day, full of families ordering refreshers and frappuccinos. On barre for a change, I was too occupied with sequencing drinks and scooping ice to notice he had arrived.

When Lydia announced it, her smile was undeniable. She then exclaimed, “I’ve got it.”

A lilac sharpie in hand, she reached for the 20-oz swan-white cup.

“I’ll draw him, in his truck, at the Starbucks drive-thru.”

My face was pulled back to cold barre; times were important to the Starbucks that, at one point, held the title of fastest in Wisconsin. My hand on the blender top, I didn’t hear the full exchange when he zoomed up. On the left side of the ice bin, I managed to make out Lydia eagerly explaining, “I drew you in your truck at the Starbucks drive-thru.”

When finally I got a chance to look, only his dirty bumper speeding away filled my sight.

Lydia turned back around. Her ice-blue eyes, usually tired or mischievous, had a softer tinge. Feelin came together with voice; emotion entered her words. Usually, jokes, jibes, and goofy puns left her lips, as much for team morale as for her own coping mechanism.

But when I heard her speak with awe, true awe, I knew I would never forget it.

“He got choked up.”

Venti Dark Roast, fast as the coffee we poured, always had something to shout-say. He never hemmed and hawed at the menu board. Maybe there’s a reason art museums are so quiet. Our Sharpie painting on a 3-inch lid stirred something within him. Venti Dark Roast had stammered.

Every barista within earshot was smiling after Lydia revealed what had happened. There are some moments so precious they seem almost too good to be true. I’m sure, as sure as I am of the fact that his lungs will never abandon their loving tobacco, that this moment with Venti Dark Roast wasn’t one of them.

© 2021 Olivia R.H.

My Review

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Having worked in and romanticized the service industry, this really spoke to me. I love those brief, yet impactful interactions. Found myself getting a little lost in some of the descriptions, but the story is wonderful.

Posted 2 Weeks Ago

Olivia R.H.

1 Week Ago

Thank you! I appreciate your review; I will definitely try to polish the descriptions and exposition.. read more
Sometimes our heart just leaks through our thoughts... this had the taste of that.

Posted 3 Weeks Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Olivia R.H.

3 Weeks Ago

A fine way to phrase it!

3 Weeks Ago

Smiles, well yours did.
I kept reading, waiting for the punch line that would define the story. It finally came, at the very end. All that build-up,only to deflate the guy at the end.

Posted 3 Weeks Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Olivia R.H.

3 Weeks Ago

Good point. Perhaps I spent too long in exposition...

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3 Reviews
Added on July 6, 2021
Last Updated on July 7, 2021


Olivia R.H.
Olivia R.H.

Madison, WI

I'm a young writer who loves coffee, reading, writing, hiking, running, dancing, trying different cuisines, eating almost anything that's chocolate, and playing the piano! I also love Spanish and cann.. more..