Another Case of Mistaken Identity


I paid for my gas at the pump on that cold morning in November before the sun was up and went inside to buy a cup of coffee.
That is when it all began.
"Hello," she says.
"Hi," I answer, pushing the button on the dark roast carafe, getting high on the aroma.
It wasn't my fault that I was addicted to the stuff.
While so many had made New Year's Resolutions that they would never keep, I had decided eleven months prior that I was going to stop in every Friday morning at that particular gas station and buy myself a cup of that really good coffee, instead of brewing my own at home.
I wanted to be able to keep my resolution.
I did.

Not only did I keep it, but I also started to stop in at that gas station a couple of days a week, and then it was three, and then four, and then five. And sometimes Sven would bring me a cup on a Saturday and or Sunday morning and hand it to me in bed.
And once I was totally hooked to that caffeine from heaven, disguised as a gas station, that gas station went and raised the price.
This upset me, but I just bitched about it and dug a little deeper into my pockets and crossed the fresh fruit off my grocery list. After all, it was my New Year's Resolution.
The woman who had just spoken to me, was still standing right there, staring at me. She was a brunette, and her hair was possibly wavy. It was hard to tell because it was all smashed down by a Ruth Buzzy style hairnet that came with her job description.
"How have you been?" she says sort-a-like she knew me.
"Pretty good," I say. "And you?"
"Oh, really good," she answers.
"Do I know her?" that voice inside my head says.
I look her over. Her name tag said Charlotte.
"I don't think I know any Charlottes," I heard the other voice in my head. "She looks familiar, but everybody does. This is a small town."
I paid for my coffee and drove to work in my usual trance. Just me, my dark roast and the beautiful country sunrise.
Charlotte was hired as a full-time employee at that gas station, and we shared the same hours.
So, we saw each other almost every morning, for about three years.
"Hi Charlotte," I would say. "How are you?"
Charlotte was always doing fine, as was I.
Every so often she would say something about school.
"You went to school with her. That's it," said voice number one. "I don't remember any Charlotte's," said number two. "That doesn't mean shit," they both said.
And then, just to complicate the situation, another woman wearing a name tag that said Tracy shows up at the cash register. She looked familiar.
"Hey Millie, how are you?" she would say with a big smile every time I got to the counter.
"Hi Tracy," I would answer, digging for that freaking $1.04. "I'm pretty good. How are you?"
Tracy was always doing fine, as was I.
"How does she know you?" voice number one would say. "How do you know her?" the other one would say. "Could she own the face that was on the other side of that campfire that one night that we spent in Rice Lake on that piece of land with Crystal and Gary? That couple that you knew for a short time, a long time ago? The people that had the Basset Hound named Earl? And then Earl went missing and we were all, including the kids, wandering around on that property calling, "Earl! Earl! Earl!" to no avail? And then we finally had to give up. So, we drank beer, the adults that is, because it is a state law, around a campfire, that is, got up, had breakfast in the morning and left? Was she on the other side of that fire?"
"Here's your change, Millie."
And then I would drive to work in my usual trance. Just me, my dark roast and the beautiful country sunrise.
That particular gas station is really popular.
It's because this sleepy little town where I live is full of caffeine-aholics.
I call it the New York City of Lodi.
The place is so busy that a couple of years ago they went and expanded their parking lot, which created like, five new spaces.
Shortly after the great expansion, I backed up in the new cramped little section and heard a sound that made a few bad words shoot out of my mouth.
"Sons du les Bitches!"
I then went back inside to find the owner of the vehicle with the crinkled bumper.
It belonged to my classmate, Charlotte.
After that little incident I decided to quit the dark roast, cold turkey.
I'm like that.
And then one day I stopped in to get a cup of dark roast, and there stood Charlotte.
"Hi Millie," she says. "Hey, are you coming to the class reunion?"
"The class reunion. It's next month. Out at the barn."
"Why is Madison Memorial coming all the way to Lodi?"
"What?" she says.
"And why is our class reunion next month?"
"Because it's our 35th," she says.
"No. We had our thirty-fifth two years ago," I said.
Color runs into her cheeks.
"Aren't you Millie, Savannah?"
"No, I am Millie Noe."
"Didn't you go to school in Lodi?"
"No," I answered.
"Well then how do you know me?" she says.
"I don't," I said.
About two years ago the abandoned gas station located on the four corners was resurrected.
I felt sorry for it because all of the cars were over at New York City filling up their coffee cups.
So, I pulled in.
I was pumping gas into my tank when that woman, the one with the name tag that says Tracy, the Tracy that worked at the New York City gas station, comes out, "Good morning, Millie," she says.
And just last week she calls out the door, "Hey Millie, come on in here when you are done."
So, I went on in when I was done.
"Pick out a donut or a cookie or anything you want," she says.
"Because you are such a loyal customer. Every week you fill up here. How is Sven?"
I wonder if she was on the other side of that campfire on that property in Rice Lake.
Or maybe we went to school together.

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