Me and the Latte Guy | Our Town | Chicago Reader

Me and the Latte Guy 

An Environmentally Correct Fantasy

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"To think what salmon have to swim through....It's amazing they ever get upstream." --British Columbia environment minister

For the longest time now, I have been having strange fantasies about the guy who makes my latte every morning. I don't remember exactly when it started. All I know is that one day as I was ordering my usual, I looked into his eyes and I realized there were things I wanted to do with this man.

The latte guy is tall and thin. He has a goatee, a black leather jacket, and an earring in his left ear, and although my friend David has taken to calling him the "latte jerk," I think he might actually be a nice guy, possibly even a little on the shy side. After he says hi, he tends to put his head down and walk away, which is usually my inclination as well.

I know the latte guy likes me because he treats me differently than the other customers. He waits on me first. He talks to me while he steams milk. He "accidentally" charges me less than he should. Sometimes he doesn't charge me at all.

A lot of people would say that it's not too healthy to get all jazzed up over some guy you hardly know. He could be gay. Or married. Or mentally deranged. Or addicted to heroin.

That's all true enough. In the beginning I worried about it a lot. I worried that there would end up being two guys, the real latte guy and the one in the fantasies.

But the more I learn about him, the more confident I am that there is only one guy. Yesterday while he made my latte we talked about consumption (not the literary kind). Did you know there are items for sale in the grocery store that are 85 percent packaging and only 15 percent food?

Three words. Bovine Growth Hormone. It's in milk. Apparently it's not supposed to be. I didn't know this until the latte guy brought it to my attention. He does that a lot. He makes me see things I never saw before. Like once he said, "You should have a personal cup."

And he was right. All those months I'd been coming in--all those lattes, all those paper cups, hundreds of paper cups. And me, just blithely throwing them out.

I'm a terrible person.

At lunch today I ate my yogurt with a plastic spoon and then threw the spoon away instead of washing it and saving it to use again. Last night while I brushed my teeth I let the water run.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I don't deserve him.

Environmentally Correct Fantasy #1: He and I take bundles of newspapers to the recycling center. In reality, I don't have the faintest idea where you take newspapers to be recycled. Consequently I have in my apartment about six or seven months' worth of old newspapers. Late one night, in a fit of insomnia-induced industry, I organized all these newspapers into bundles and tied the bundles with twine. Each bundle weighs about five pounds. What I will do with these bundles when I move, I have no idea. I have decided not to buy any more newspapers.

Environmentally Correct Fantasy #2: We go grocery shopping and take along a reusable canvas bag. In reality, there are 80-some-odd plastic grocery bags in a cabinet under my sink. In terms of volume, I'd say they take up about eight cubic feet, but it's hard to say for sure. They're like air, these plastic bags. They expand to fill the size of the container they're in.

Environmentally Correct Fantasy #3: We do the dishes. In reality, I have a dishwasher. Every night before I go to bed, I start it up--regardless of whether or not it's full. As I lie in bed listening to the malevolent sounds it makes (the gushing, the coughing, the chugging), I'm gripped by the absolute certainty that the dishwasher will explode, killing me in my sleep. I am always surprised when I wake up the next morning, alive, with clean dishes.

What do you say to the latte guy, the real latte guy, when you finally have him right there with you?

One night, the coldest night of the year, we met for a drink. It is hard to decide on the most embarrassing moment (there were so many). If I had to choose, I would say it was that first moment, when I walked into the bar from out of the cold and my glasses fogged completely over so I couldn't find him in the crowd.

In his apartment, on his coffee table, the latte guy has the following periodicals: Garbage, Utne Reader, Harper's, the Nation. I know this because I was there. I was in the latte guy's apartment.

I went there to meet his cat. It was a nice cat, affectionate and well behaved. If you could hear the tone in his voice when he talks to that cat, you would know that the latte guy is the one in the fantasies. Not gay. Not married. Not mentally deranged. Not a heroin addict.

Of course, it goes without saying that the latte guy can never come to my apartment. It's not just the dishwasher, the teeming multitude of plastic bags under the sink, the incriminating bundles of old newspapers. It's the plastic-applicator tampons. It's the drip that drums incessantly into the kitchen sink.

It's true. Even the smallest drip from a leaky faucet can waste more than 50 gallons of water a day.

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