He had no business being there. He, a habitual black coffee addict. The tea stall, the enemy territory. The chaiwallah in question wasn't helping. His torn sweat-stained vest was revolting. He wasn't big on customer satisfaction or offering a varied menu. He didn't serve black coffee. He even refused to take instructions on how to make black coffee.
Yet all was forgiven for she loved him. She called him 'Dipu Bhaiyya'. She said his name with a smile. And he couldn't help but smile in return. He wanted to tell her that her 'Dipu Bhaiyya's business' was illegal. That his 'cutting' glasses were never properly washed. He also had the urge to jokingly ask her if she knew of some statistic on how if there's a commercial building, then there has to be a gruff tea vendor hawking cigarettes in its parking lot.
Instead, he did what he always did best. He listened. As she ran her hand through her impossibly brown hair, she deduced, 'This tea tastes like cat piss. Correction, this tastes like piss from a neutered 90 year old cat.' Then, she explained to him that what usually comes in sachets is the sissy stuff British call tea. She said real tea was what you get when you throw in some ginger and cardamom. Mmmm, she went.
She said she was only drinking tea from the office pantry because 'Dipu Kaka had left for his uncle's chautha and will only be back by Monday.' She mentioned that the first thing she liked doing on Monday morning was to arrive before everyone else. Around eight-ish. Then, have a nice hot cuppa and then rush back to her desk to map her entire week.
So, a week later, he found himself avoiding the deep penetrating stare of 'Dipu Bhaiyya' and loitering in the parking lot. He focused his sights on an imaginary pebble on the curb and kicked it. When he looked up, the chaiwallah was still staring at him. To bring some change to the scene, the chaiwallah put his hand under his vest and started scratching.
He cursed himself for thinking she was dropping a hint. Arranging their next 'coincidental' encounter. He knew that at 25, he should have been able to walk up to her and chat her up. He hated how his colleagues would exchange numbers with women they met in the office elevator. He hated how in the 2 weeks she had been in his office, all he had managed to exchange with her were coy smiles.
He walked a few steps. This time, he spotted a real pebble to kick off the curb. He felt pitiful and decided to spare the pebble. He was making his way to the lobby when he spotted her. She flashed a smile that made words seem redundant. Even that rotten Dipu Bhaiyya seemed to perk up. Dipu Bhaiyya then quickly poured some inconsistently brown tea into two hazy cutting glasses and kept them on the counter. He knew in his heart that his steamy affair with black coffee was coming to an end.