by Carolin Messier
As Tyler, the barista at one of my favorite cafes, spun around from the espresso machine towards the bar sink behind him, the stainless steel steaming pitcher he intended to empty failed to clear the counter’s edge and flew from his hand. When it crashed against the concrete floor, the half-inch of warm, frothy milk that was left in it from the last latte he’d made sprayed drops into each of 360 degrees. The back counter, cabinet doors, Tyler’s apron, my favorite fresh-from-the-dryer, long-sleeved, gray t-shirt and everything on the front counter including my open wallet and Naomi’s crisp croissant were all splashed. No surface was spared. I broke out laughing. As Tyler offered his mortified apologies while insisting that my order was on the house and the other barista handed me some dampened paper towels to dab my shirt and clean my glasses, I couldn’t stop laughing. The moment before impact I’d been standing in line and talking with a member of my writing group about having just spontaneously wept in my car for the fifth time that day and it was only 10:30 am. Set off by some song I’d heard on the radio, I’d sniffled and sobbed over things I had no control over, that I couldn’t change in any way. He confided that he’d teared up out of the blue recently, triggered by an old girlfriend’s Facebook post about her dog dying. We each expressed the futility of breaking down over such things. Not that we thought we should just suck it up, but that being emotionally tossed and tumbled by seemingly small things that had no true impact on our lives wasn’t particularly helpful.
We were the writers, but we struggled to convey what we meant and inarticulately fumbled through our ideas and explanations on the subject to one another. Then our barista broke the tension of my day and schooled us in our craft when he so elegantly demonstrated an important rule of writing:
“Don’t tell, show.”
There’s no sense crying over spilled milk.