It’s 11pm and the last patron has left, smoke lingering along the mouth of the ashtray. Inside, Crystal meticulously cleans the coffee machine as if these two entities were the only thing existent in the coffee house while everything else becomes an inconsequential blur. Her methodical movements congeal time and a momentary spotlight shines, where every knob and curve glisten under the her gentle hands.

The chairs are stacked outside and the floors are mopped, while the grease trap moans for its duty is done, and it’s time to empty it from its agony. Al and Crystal crouch by its side with their industrial rubber gloves on and a brush in hand, as if about to perform some sort of life and death surgery. I merely stood close by, only managing to look at buckets full of grime and sediment of mysterious waste, turning my head away every now and then before the stench caught up by surprise.

12:30 a.m. and the store is ready again for a brand new day, as if nothing had happened before while others head for their beds, already craving for next morning’s coffee. The shutters creak, its contents shut and the hands that unhinge them sigh in relief.

We often forget that when we take that first warm and cosy sip, we sip also blood, sweat, tears and whole lot of love.


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