the rim of a coffee cup.

Charlie sat down at a spare table in the corner of the Costa coffee place. It was early evening and there weren’t many people around. He was able to find a table in the window, where he could – if he wished – look out on the drab London street and the people walking by, putting up their umbrellas against the drizzle that had begun.

The table top was decorated with a few spilt sugar grains, a twisted empty sugar packet, and the cold coffee cup of the last occupant. As Charlie sipped his own lukewarm cappuccino, he considered the dirty cup, pushed now to one side. He wondered idly about the unknown coffee drinker who had left a vague imprint of his or her lips on the rim of the cup. 

He thought – yes, he was sure – the Mystery Man (or Woman) had ordered cappuccino like himself. A thin brown line of encrusted milk foam, stained coffee-coloured, draggled along the rim. He – or she – had been left-handed (Charlie felt he was quite the sleuth) because the rim of foam residue was interrupted by lip-marks to the right of the cup handle. That small interruption along the rim seemed vaguely pornographic, and Charlie looked up again at the street outside, slightly embarrassed at his own imaginings of the lips that had left that mark behind. Like animal scat, he thought. He – or she – was here.


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