I never cared for the taste of coffee. It was like blending dirt, boiling it in rain water collected in a rotted barrel, and drinking it for breakfast. Three days ago, I wouldn’t have imagined myself swaying in front of the coffee maker as the grinding of the beans lulled me to sleep. The rich, dark espresso shot down my throat, through my arms and legs, and down to the tips of my fingers and toes. I stood erect as it warmed my stiff body, loosened my muscles.
“I never took you for a coffee drinker,” said my coworker who had just entered the break room. She opened the refrigerator and took out a container of Yoplait Greek yogurt.
“I’m not.” I shoveled ten spoonful’s of sugar into my mug, poured the creamer until my coffee turned beige.
“I can see that.” She leaned against the counter, peeled back the seal of her yogurt and licked it. “So what’s the occasion?” she asked, smacking her lips.
“Can’t sleep.” I took another sip. I could still taste the bitterness, a smudge of mud lingering on my tongue. I added two more spoonfuls of sugar, poured the cream until the liquid reached the rim of my mug. “I’ve been having this recurring nightmare.”
“What about?” she asked, mouth full of yogurt.
“You’d laugh if I told you.”
“C’mon, no I won’t. I promise.”
I turned my back to her as I recounted the horrors of last night. “I keep seeing this man. He’s wearing trousers, a gray vest and a bowler hat. He has a monocle over his eye, but I can’t see his face, and he’s—” My breath caught.
“He’s what?” She was standing behind me now. I felt the warmth of her hand lingering over my shoulder, but she hesitated to bring it down.
“He’s riding a penny-farthing.”
“You know, those bikes from the 1800’s with the big wheel up front, and the tiny wheel behind.” I looked at her over my shoulder. She was pressing her lips together, trying to hide a smile. I pulled away from her. “I knew you would laugh.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. But you gotta admit, it does sound kind of ridiculous.”
“No. It doesn’t.” I shook my head, fell into the chair at the round table against the wall. “He rides past my bedroom window. Back and forth. Waving. Taking off his hat and nodding at me with no face. He does it all night. And it’s so real, I don’t know if I’m dreaming or sitting there on my bed watching it happen. All I know is I wake up the next morning exhausted, and my curtains are pulled back nearly off the rod.” I cleared my throat, a weak cough and tearless sob.
“This has really got you frazzled, huh?” she said, pulling out a chair and sitting next to me. She folded her hands in her lap, still afraid to touch me.
“I’m being tormented by some demented 19th century ghost.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?” A hint of a smirk was still on her lips.
I rose from my seat, retrieved my coffee mug from the counter next to the maker. “Please don’t tell the whole department I’m crazy,” I said as I exited the break room.
This piece of flash fiction is in response to this week’s photo prompt for Sunday Photo Fiction. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.