Rodney throws his nuclear physics textbook across the lawn. "I QUIT," he yells at the administration building. "You think physics is all about eating clubs and getting published and selling things to aerospace firms? Well, okay, selling things to aerospace companies is a big part of it, but I was doing that ten years ago when I was sixteen, before I had my first PhD! And besides, that was in the interest of national security, not some ivy-league quest for fame!"
He throws his backpack, his graphing calculator, and his notebook. "If I wanted torrential rain and snow I could have stayed in Toronto!" He throws his bagel. "If I wanted mediocre professors and idiotic classmates I could have stayed in Pasadena!" He throws his dictaphone and it smashes against the side of the building. Everything else he leaves on the quad.
He keeps his coffee.
"Who is that?" Angela, the teeny tiny barista with the earring in her nose, peers over the cash register and then elbows Rodney.
Rodney puts down his stack of laminated drink flashcards and checks out her line of sight. There's a skinny kid in an indie-rock tee, hair in all directions, wearing boots and a proprietary green apron and filling out paperwork at one of the customer tables.
"I'll find out," says Rodney, going over there.
Turns out he's John Sheppard, newest member of the Starbucks team. He's got a lazy grin and stupid pointy ears. Rodney is not impressed.
"How old are you, like, thirteen?"
"And three quarters," John says, lounging in his chair.
"Do you even drink coffee?" Rodney demands.
John just smiles at him.
Rodney grabs his application. John is twenty years old, an art student, and obviously a complete waste of space.
"Soy milk is too noisy," Rodney says. "When people order soy I usually just use skim."
John lifts the blue-grey soy milk up to the aerating wand and the milk steams and rattles in its pitcher. John gives Rodney a slow, bored look. "What if they're allergic?" he drawls.
"We're making eight bucks an hour," Rodney says, incredulous.
"How do I make this a cappuccino?" John goes to scoop some foam and Rodney can't stand it anymore and takes the flat spoon from him, their fingers brushing as he does.
"Pour," says Rodney, pouring. "Then skim." Using the side of the spoon he slaps a dollop of foam on top of the venti latte. "Cappuccino," he says.
John blinks, almost like he's impressed. Rodney's stomach does a little flip. "I'm going on break," Rodney says.
"Wait up," John says, putting a plastic lid on the cappuccino. "I'll come with you."
John, as it turns out, is actually even younger than Rodney's sister Jeannie who just started undergrad in Ontario. On the other hand, sometimes he makes fractals on his computer, and he's got handmade stereo speakers and a potato clock in his dorm room and that makes Rodney feel ancient and aroused. The speakers are louder than Rodney's used to and John likes punk music sung by artists that are younger even than he is.
They make out during breaks, in the alley behind the antique shop, and they both taste like coffee and Rodney loves it. He loves John's skinny little hips and bored teenaged eyes. He thinks John looks super hot in a green apron, but he never says any of that.
"You should clean up your desktop icons," says John, playing Zork on Rodney's laptop in the break room.
"You should come home with me," says Rodney.
"There's a hole in the bathroom ceiling," Rodney says flatly.
"I know," John says.
"A hole," Rodney says. "And it's leaking."
"And the shower won't drain. I called the landlord five times today! Because, hello, hole in the ceiling! But he won't return my messages, and it's really hot in here, and I hate my job. Are you listening to me?"
"Come here," John says.
"But I want to take a shower and be able to stand in the bathroom and not have the ceiling fall on my head!"
John tosses his sketchpad to the floor and pats the cushion next to him. Unplacated, Rodney stomps over and flops down on the futon. John puts his arm around Rodney, kissing him on the head and tucking him up against John's side.
"Want to watch bad sci-fi and criticize the science?"
"Yes," Rodney says, relaxing into him.
"I quit!" Rodney says, dancing on the couch, his girly drink sloshing over the sides of its big bell-shaped plastic glass. The stem had popped off an hour ago and was somewhere else. "I don't work at Starbucks anymore!"
"Neither do I," John says, and he sounds a little sad.
"No," Rodney says, landing in John's lap. "Listen to me, you just graduated from art school. You don't need Starbucks. We're moving to Manhattan and getting you a great job where you can draw your dorky airplanes and racecars and people are going to love you, seriously, and maybe I'll get a job where I can yell and do physics." He sighs. "I miss physics, and yelling. Oh! And, our next apartment won't have a hole in the ceiling. So there." He takes a big slurp of his drink.
"You're cute," John says, kissing him on the nose.