Sophie Reed: Female, 23 years old, barista, has worked in this coffee shop since she was 16.
Grace Harrison: Female, early 20s.
Henry White: Male, early 20s.
Jack: Male, 18.
Bennet: Male, 18.
Mrs. Maye: Female, 40 - 50, mature, wise, business owner.
Lines with / or \ indicate an overlap in dialogue
*For a song suggestion for when Sophie enters the shop, the playwright suggests “Sister” by Haux, but any sad indie song could suffice.
Setting: A coffee shop. The space is separated into two sections: the sitting area and the coffee counter. The coffee counter should house espresso machines, coffee mugs, and to-go cups. A tip jar also lives on the counter; it holds a few dollars. There are a number of tables around the space. Each table is different and has chairs that are also mismatched. They should seem lived-in and loved; the tops of the tables marred with signatures and condensation rings but it “adds to the character.” The door to the shop is across from the coffee counter. An open/closed sign is next to the door. The time period is contemporary.
[SOPHIE enters the space with a backpack. She flips the open sign to display “open.” She takes in her surroundings. A sad, calming indie song* plays while she does so. She notices the coffee counter. Song cuts out. It is a complete mess. There are open books and filled coffee cups out of place. There are small puddles of liquid and coffee grounds dirtying up the counter.
SOPHIE is not amused. She rushes to the counter to clean it.]
Sophie: [to herself] God-damn it, Willow! I am not your fucking housemaid! I’m gonna wring her little neck. String her up by her live-laugh-love necklace. The only reason she does this shit is she knows I have to take care of it. It’s like she has it out for me. [She looks at the schedule on the wall.] She’s not even in until Wednesday. Fucking bitch. Mrs. Maye? Willow’s a bitch! [pause] Mrs. Maye? [another pause] Is there anybody here? Maye’s gonna make me fucking deal with it. I don’t want to fucking deal with it. UGH!
[to the audience] Don’t get me wrong, Willow’s a nice girl. She’s pretty. Still in high school. Innocent and uninformed, but she takes shortcuts. Shortcuts that my boss lets bite her in the ass. She lets her learn through mistakes...a lot of mistakes. Mrs. Maye never let me take shortcuts. It was always [mocking Mrs. Maye] “Sophie did you do the dishes?” “Sophie, we recycle those.” “Sophie you can’t spit in people’s drinks just because they didn’t tip you.” Eight years. I’ve worked here for eight years. Maye acts like I’m the only damn person who works here. Mrs. Maye is a great woman, don’t get me wrong. She is sunshine. She is wise and eloquent. She has taught me everything I have ever wanted to know, even some things I didn’t, but she is just mentally exhausting sometimes. She’s like big brother breathing down your neck. Always watching, waiting for you to fuck up. I’ve wanted to leave this shop, this whole town, on more than one occasion. It’d be easy: clock out, hang up my apron, and just walk out that door, down the street till my feet bled. Just walk. I’m not in a hurry. It’ll be there when I get there… If I even have an “it” I’m walking towards. Even when I go home, there it is across the street. That dusty brick coffee house, just staring at me, mocking me. It’s like I can’t escape.
[GRACE enters into the shop, sits down at a table.]
Sophie: That’s Grace. She comes in every morning. Orders the same thing. Stays for about an hour, thumbs through a few pages of a novel, and then goes on with her day.
[HENRY enters and notices GRACE.]
Sophie: She usually comes in with her boyfriend. Most days they would just read in silence until they had finished their drinks. I can never remember the boyfriend’s name.
Sophie: His name is Henry.
Grace: What’re you doing here?
Henry: Same as you. Getting coffee.
Henry: Then why’d/ you ask?
Grace: But why are you really here?
Henry: Jesus, Gracie, why are you so fucking paranoid?
Grace: Just answer the question.
Henry: On the basis that I already did and that I don’t have to, I plead the fifth.
[HENRY goes to the counter.]
Henry: Morning, Soph.
Sophie: Morning. What can I get you?
Henry: Add a shot.
Sophie: That doesn’t answer my question.
Henry: No on decaf.
Henry: Excuse me?
Sophie: That’s what it's… Just follow the instructions on the screen.
[HENRY completes his transaction on the screen.]
Sophie: Could I get a name for that?
Henry: Still Henry.
Sophie: I’ll have that out shortly.
[HENRY goes to sit at a table away from GRACE. He is texting on his phone.]
Grace: Doesn’t the caffeine mess with your meds?
Grace: Your meds. Your anxiety meds? Won’t the caffeine counteract your medicine?
Henry: [He doesn’t look up from his phone.] I stopped taking them. I haven’t needed them.
Grace: What do you mean you… [sighs, frustrated] I’ll stop.
[several beats, a sense of finality]
Grace: Did you grab the suitcase of clothes from my place?
Grace: One question. Please, just give me that.
Henry: I was just there. /I left the keys under the doormat.
Grace: /The keys?
Sophie: Deadeye for Harry?
[HENRY goes up to the counter.]
Henry: It’s Henry.
Sophie: My bad. Have a nice day.
[HENRY grabs the coffee and goes to leave.]
[HENRY stops and looks at GRACE.]
Grace: Where did you two meet?
[HENRY waits a moment and then exits. GRACE is left alone at her table. A moment passes. SOPHIE walks over to
GRACE and hands her a cup of coffee.]
Sophie: On the house.
[SOPHIE walks to behind the counter and begins working.]
[Lights fade to black on the seating area, GRACE exits in darkness.]
Sophie: We get a lot of people like that. People who make coming here a habit. They come and they get coffee, sure, but they spend time here, like a lot of time. They’ll grab a drink, make small talk. A number of people will sit here for hours. Some of them come so often you start to attach names to faces. I remember a lot of people from here, even those who I haven’t seen in years. I’ve worked here for eight years, but I’ve lived across the street my whole life, so a lot of my memories revolve around this very brick building. [She remembers and giggles, reminiscing.] I remember when I was like six, maybe seven years old, there was this group of teenagers who would sit outside the coffee shop for hours on end. You’d probably call them punks now, what with their loitering, and their “fuck the machine” attitude. God, I used to think they were so cool. They were edgy as hell, but hey, I was into that kind of stuff. I was seven. Don’t judge me. They were always there when I got home from school. They smoked and I sat on my front porch and watched. Better than anything happening inside the house. I would play with the rocks on my driveway and listen to them talk for hours. They didn’t seem to mind, but one day they just weren’t there. They just vanished. It seemed empty, their spot on the wall. I don’t know where they went. They never came back. [beat] There are always people who you only see once, especially when you work here, but it hurts when the ones you see every day don’t come back. They’re not your friends, but it feels like you know them, like you’re connected to them by an invisible string, and you’ve spent your whole life creating this web of invisible string, and one day they just leave and don’t come back, and you feel like something is missing. Something they sure as hell never saw, but you did. You gave them that string. A part of yourself almost. You may have never spoken a single word to that person, but you feel like you know everything you need to know about them. They’re not a prisoner. The web holds no power over them. You know they could leave at any moment. They don’t have to stay here. I stay here for them. The people who I talk to everyday and may never even know my name. It’s a cup of coffee, a few words. It doesn’t mean anything. [beat] I should just go. [She starts to gather her backpack and some things including books Willow left.] I don’t have to stay here. I’m no one’s prisoner. Maye doesn’t care about me. Willow probably won’t realize I’m not coming back. I should’ve left a long time ago. I should’ve just left.
[SOPHIE goes to leave, but barely makes it past the counter when BENNET and JACK enter the cafe. SOPHIE returns to behind the counter and drops the backpack. BENNET sits down at a table and takes out his laptop. JACK approaches the coffee counter.]
Sophie: Can I get you something?
Jack: Me? Oh yeah, I’ll take a… Caramel frappe… and/ your…
Sophie: What size?
Sophie: Size? Small, medium, or large?
[BENNET texts JACK. JACK looks at his phone.]
Jack: Uhhhh… Small, I guess.
Sophie: Could I get a name?
Jack: [mumbling] Fucking Bennet.
Sophie: How do you spell that?
[BENNET can’t contain his laughter. JACK looks back at him.]
Jack: No! I mean that wasn’t to you, it was… My name is Jack. It’s Jack.
Sophie: Great. Can I get you anything else?
[JACK looks at BENNET who is encouraging him.]
Jack: Yeah. Uh… could I get your number?
Sophie: Just follow the instructions on the screen and I’ll have that out for you shortly.
Jack: What do you mean no?
Sophie: Well, Jack, it usually means the opposite of yes. As in my number isn’t available to you and never will be.
Jack: Look, I just think you’re really cute and I just thought I would ask you for your number so maybe we could talk or something--
Sophie: I’m not interested.
Jack: You’re not interested?
Jack: Could I take you on a date or something?
Sophie: I work.
Jack: Every day?
Sophie: Every day.
Jack: Ok. What time do you work? I… I could come/ and talk then.
Sophie: Listen, kid. I appreciate the attempt. I really do, but the answer is still no.
Jack: Come on, please, give it a chance?
Sophie: The answer is no! Okay? No matter what you say, it will be no. It will always be no. I do not owe you a yes to any of your questions, but what you owe is $3.50, so pay for your fucking drink and go sit next to your friend so you can be sad because the hot barista said no to you.
[JACK pays and goes to where BENNET is.]
Mrs. Maye [off stage]: Sophie!
[MRS. MAYE enters from behind the counter.]
Mrs. Maye: I swear to God, child, I’m not your mom. I shouldn’t have to come in to work with you behaving like this, and I shouldn’t have to remind you how to treat people, let alone the customers who pay your paycheck.
Sophie: Maye! Did you not see how he was treating me?
Mrs. Maye: I did, and I’m sorry you were hit on by a high schooler, but that does not give you the authority to yell at him, especially while on the clock.
Sophie: I only told him what his parents should’ve taught him a long time ago.
Mrs. Maye: Your job is not to teach our customers how to behave. It is to make drinks and treat our customers with respect.
Sophie: Maye! I didn’t feel respected. Does that not matter to you?
Mrs. Maye: That boy didn’t owe you anything other than $3.50. You owe him a drink and an apology, so get to work. [Goes to leave but hesitates.] You have worked here longer than anyone else, so I expect you to know how to act. [beat] Sophie, I care about you and I would hate to let you go, but… Just get started on that drink…please.
[MRS. MAYE exits. SOPHIE makes drink.]
Bennet: Tough break, bud.
Jack: If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have had the courage to ask her, so thanks a lot. Dick. I got yelled at for talking to her, and then she got yelled at for yelling at me. She’s never gonna talk to me again. I’m forever alone, Ben.
Bennet: Jack, do you remember what we learned in English last week?
Jack: That the hot girl who sits by the door only winks at me because she just got contacts?
Bennet: What? No, you jackass. The Stoics.
Jack: Oh yeah, those guys. Wait, are you trying to tell me that my life is too hard so I should just off myself?
Bennet: JESUS JACK! No! Stoicism was about expecting the worst. Right? So, you’re not disappointed when everything does get fucked up.
Jack: I guess.
Bennet: Chin up, sport. She’s out there. The girl of your dreams. Maybe she’s just not the barista that’s like a decade older than you.
Jack: She is not THAT old.
Bennet: Bro, you get my point. She’s out of your league.
Jack: Who is in my league then?
Bennet: Don’t you have an English project to help me work on?
[JACK gets out his laptop.]
Jack: Did that go as bad as I thought it did?
Bennet: Stoicism, Jack.
[SOPHIE approaches with the drink.]
Sophie: Coffee for Jackass.
Bennet: To answer your previous question, yes, yes it did.
[Lights out on seating area. JACK and BENNET leave in darkness.]
[SOPHIE returns to the coffee counter.]
Sophie: You know? As many times as I’ve thought about leaving, I never have. Big shock, right? I’m still here. I never had the reason to leave. Sure, I could’ve just left and walked forever, like I’ve thought about a million times, but why would I have? I don’t know what's out there, I was comfortable. [beat] But I know there’s nothing here for me anymore and sometimes comfortable isn’t enough. I need to find where I belong, start from scratch. Not here. Somewhere new. I could go to Paris. Me, the lone American wanderer abroad in France. I don’t buy anything other than clothes, so I could probably afford a plane ticket. I’ll live off the land. I’ll learn French and marry some Frenchman with a mustache and a dog, and we’ll live on the countryside and raise sheep or something. I’ll figure it out on the way. [She grabs her backpack and heads for the front door.]
Mrs. Maye: Soph, do you need anything? I’m going to the store… What’re you doing?
[SOPHIE ignores MRS. MAYE.]
Mrs. Maye: Are you scheduled tomorrow?
Mrs. Maye: You work tomorrow?
Sophie: I am on the schedule.
Mrs. Maye: [notices the backpack] Are you coming in tomorrow?
Mrs. Maye: Why not?
Sophie: I’m leaving.
Mrs. Maye: You’ve got two more hours on your shift. Are you feeling alright?
Sophie: I’m fine. I’m leaving.
Mrs. Maye: Is this about earlier? Where are you going?
Sophie: I don’t know.
Mrs. Maye: Sit down.
Sophie: Maye. I need to/ go
Mrs. Maye: \Sit.
[SOPHIE sits down. MRS. MAYE begins cleaning up the counter.]
Mrs. Maye: When I was your age, I opened this shop. I was living in a run-down apartment off of Grand Avenue. I got a loan from the bank.
Sophie: I know.
Mrs. Maye: Please don’t talk, just listen. This had been my dream since I was a little girl. A place where people can come and not worry about what's going on in their lives, but what’s inside here: companionship, a good smile, and a nice warm drink. Something to give people hope for the world, make them comfortable. I dropped everything for this. I quit school, I left home, I spent all of my savings on this property. My husband said opening this shop in this town was economic suicide, so he left me. I had nothing but a brick building that I hardly even owned, but it’s what I wanted. I worked my ass off for years. Teaching people, serving people, giving people things that I had sought my whole life to give them, and no, I’m not talking about coffee.
[MRS. MAYE gets lost in the story and turns her back to SOPHIE.] I’m talking about a place where they belong. Where they feel connected not just to the people inside but to the coffeeshop itself. The way I see it, there are these little threads that guide us to where we’re meant to go. Sometimes they pull us so hard it hurts, or we go too far in the wrong direction and they just snap. There have been days when only a handful of people show up, I hardly make enough to make ends meet, and I wonder where they went, what they’re doing. I’ll never know. Do I complain about the lack of customers? No. I think about all of the hard work I did to put me where I am today. All the smiles I have seen and that is enough. You know? I saw the mess Willow made. I heard you screaming, but I just let you scream because I trust you. I trust you to make the right decision. [SOPHIE exits while MRS. MAYE’S back is turned.] I made a lot of mistakes in my life and I know you will too, but I know you’ll be able to handle it. Now, I don’t know where you’re going, but it will be the right decision. It’s what you need. I mean, I needed a change of location, so I changed it. [MRS. MAYE turns around and SOPHIE is not there.] I went to where I was led. [to the audience] Where the wood creeks, and the tables are cracked, but the people are happy, and the coffee is hot. [She looks around, considering all of the love and character in this shop.]
Joe Hardy is a senior studying Theatre Performance at SIUE. His plans after college include moving to Minneapolis and contributing to the blooming theatre scene in the area. He would like to thank all of his supporters, most importantly his friends and family who saw his potential even before he did. He would like to dedicate his piece to his recently deceased father who never got to read it.