I hate everyone responsible for this. You know who you are.
Eduardo is a man of routines, which is why he ends up at the same coffee shop every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday before his ten a.m. class. There are five different coffee shops surrounding Harvard Square, but this one is his favorite, even if it’s the most out of the way of all of them. It’s a small place, tucked into one of the back alleys and difficult to reach, but that doesn’t mean it’s not packed with students in the mornings, all of the them desperate for their caffeine fix.
“You have a very fixed schedule,” the barista -- are they even called baristas at places that aren’t Starbucks? -- asks. “Do you come in at the exact same time every Friday?”
Eduardo blinks, because he’s not sure he’s awake enough to deal with questions like this. This is why he’s here to get coffee. “What?” he asks.
“Also, what’s your name?” the barista says. He holds up the paper cup. There’s a blank space on the cup underneath a cutesy doodle of dogs chasing butterflies, clearly meant for his name.
“Eduardo,” Eduardo says. “Is it me or did you ask me those questions in the wrong order?”
The barista -- Mark, his name tag says -- just stares at him with wide, unblinking eyes. They’re pretty, Eduardo notices absently, dark and blue. “No,” Mark says. “I don’t think I did.”
Mark writes Eduardo’s name on the cup.
It’s not until halfway through his class on financial institutions that Eduardo realizes the maybe Mark was hitting on him. Or maybe just flirting, however inept that attempt was. Well, that will teach Eduardo to interact with other human beings before he has his caffeine fix.
Mark is there every Friday morning when Eduardo wander into the coffee shop after that. Maybe he had always been there, but now Eduardo is noticing him. He’s very efficient in his motions, speeding through the various orders, but his hands are always precise. Eduardo has never seen him so much as spill a drop.
Eduardo notices other things about Mark now, too. The curls of his hair, the curve of his lips. It makes Eduardo wonder what Mark is like outside of the coffeeshop. He looks like a student, but he’s not in any of Eduardo’s classes. It’s a big campus, though. It’s not that strange.
“Nice weather we’re having,” Eduardo says. It’s been bright and sunny for almost a week now, a real record for the greater Boston area.
“It seems to be within normal working parameters,” Mark says. His face is still blank. “It’s nice for some definitions of the word.” He says, “What was your name again?”
Eduardo sighs. It’s really not that common of a name, but maybe Mark writes so many names down he can’t keep them all straight. “Eduardo,” he says.
He doesn’t stare at Mark’s fingers where they’re gripping the thick Sharpie, even if they are long and surprisingly graceful. That would just be weird.
“Are you always here at the same time every Friday?” Eduardo asks as Mark hands him his order, leaning forward and smiling his broadest smile. He figures that it’s worth a shot, since Mark noticed that he’s been coming in every Friday morning. He even pregamed a some of the disgusting coffee from one of the dining halls just so that he could be awake enough to hold an entire conversation.
Mark just stares at him. “I work here,” he says, his inflection completely flat. “This is my shift. I don’t see why I wouldn’t be here.” He holds up the cup. “Name?” he asks.
“Yeah, I just meant--” Eduardo says, trying not to look completely humiliated. “Never mind.” He swears off cute baristas for the rest of his life.
“No, really,” Christy says. “He’s probably one of those awkward nerdy types who doesn’t know how to talk to people.” She’s jamming numbers into her calculator and cursing every five seconds. Christy is the only person Eduardo knows who treats problem sets like going to war.
She still gives his arm a reassuring squeeze. He kind of regrets the fact that they ever broke up, but he understands that they’d never work out. Christy is, well, more than a little Type A, and Eduardo couldn’t take the stress of dating someone who didn’t actually have any time in her schedule to, you know, date him. She only just managed to squeeze this friendly get-together between papers and classes and club meetings.
“I’m not reading too much into him asking me about my schedule, right?” Eduardo asks. He lets himself flop back on Christy’s bed. She really has the most comfortable sheets on campus. “That’s not just me projecting or anything like that?”
“You know, you could just ask him out,” Chrisy says. “Trust me, when it comes to nerds, they don’t do subtlety well. Or at all.” She scribbles down a few more numbers with her pencil.
“I don’t think I could go through the rejection again,” Eduardo says. “Twice was bad enough. He didn’t even remember my name.”
“Poor baby,” Christy says. “Your life is so hard.” She’s been getting involved in raising money for orphaned children in China lately, which means she’s been far less willing to feel bad for Eduardo when Eduardo wants someone to feel bad for him.
“You’re not being helpful at all,” Eduardo says.
“Too bad,” Christy says.
“Would you like to go on a date with me?” Eduardo says. He looks like crap today, which would really disappoint his father, since is father is really big on presentability and not looking like you’ve just rolled out of bed. Even if you have.
“A what?” Mark says. He's making someone's hot chocolate, and he doesn't even need to look at his hands to know what he's doing. Eduardo tries really hard not to find that hot, too.
“A date,” Eduardo says, enunciating each word, “with me.”
Mark just looks confused. “Yes?” he says.
At this point, Eduardo has no idea why he’s even pushing the issue. It’s clear that, well, Mark is beyond clueless, and Eduardo has really had it with everyone ever, especially the baristas, especially Mark. “Okay,” Eduardo says, “I get it. I’ll just, I won’t bother you again.”
He waits for his coffee and then grabs it without another word to Mark. He needs to rush in order to get to his next class in time, he’ll have his coffee, so this whole side trip to get humiliated in front of a whole bunch of his classmates won’t have been a complete waste.
But then he hears someone yell, “Oh shit! That’s a gun--”
Eduardo ducks on instinct when the screaming and shooting starts. A strong hand grabs him and pulls him over the counter and behind it.
“What?” Eduardo says, because it’s Mark that dragged him behind the counter. Mark, who is a few inches shorter than Eduardo and almost as as skinny. He looks like he could barely pick Edaurdo’s sister a few inches off the ground, much less lift Eduardo the entire three feet necessary to get him over the counter. Mark isn’t freaking out the way everyone else is. His eyes are unnaturally calm. There’s an eerie red glow in Mark’s pupils.
“Come with me if you want to live,” Mark says.
So, this is not finished, and it probably never will be.
If you want to know, Mark is a robot because he had to go back in time and replace the real Mark Zuckerberg, who is important leader in the fight against
I would say that this made more sense in my head, but I would be lying.
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