This is perspective two of a four-part story.
It had been a slow night. Not much was left of it, a few stragglers seeking refuge from the crisp air were all that remained. As he bent for the steely coolness of the dirty milkshake cups under the counter, the sudden jangle of the doorbell made him jump. The cups fell to the floor with a clatter, the aluminum clash enough to make his teeth jar like he had been chewing on foil, sour strawberry milkshake splattering up his legs, the stains seeping insidiously into the legs of his crisp white pants.
He'd been struggling to control his composure ever since Scarlett, as he had secretly named her, had walked in with the man earlier, hot flashes of red and white drawing his vision as she strobed across his periphery. The crash drew the man's attention to him. He could feel the glare, twin spears heading straight for his self-consciousness, feel the cold angriness at his incompetence. He was annoyed with himself as he felt his face flush. His last vestige of composure since Scarlett sashyed in the door like a red tidal wave, stripped from him by the death stare of a stranger.
As he clumsily started to wipe up the milk, he felt, rather than saw, the presence of the customer newly seated at the bar. It was more than just the faint odour of stale cigarettes and dampness of clothing newly traipsed in from the cold evening air. There was a sense of hopelessness that hung from him like steam dissipating off a hot cup of coffee. He slumped over at the bar, hat tipped down obscuring his face, his back to the street in an effort to block out the world.
"Hey Sir, what can I get ya?" He stammered, face still red, as he tried to redeem himself from the spilt milk fiasco. The customer was sparse with his words, like it was his dying breath and he didn't want to waste it. "Coffee. Black."
As he turned to the urn, he heard the clatter of coins on the counter and the low-pitched scraping of stools on the linoleum as Scarlett and her partner stood up wordlessly. As she put on her coat he caught a sense of her weariness, and the partner's cold indifference. He watched as he grabbed her by the arm and led her through the doorway and into the darkness.
As he pressed the Bakelite tap and the coffee cascaded into the cup, he comforted himself. "Just one hour till close..."