It was air-conditioned in the office but somehow being nine stories above the ground made Dale feel warmer. Through the windows he could see across the city streets and into the cloudless distance. He yawned. It was almost 10am on an armpit of a Tuesday morning and he was tired and thirsty. There were also a growing number of bug fixes from yesterday that needed their paperwork done today.
It was time for a Smoothycino. The law-blog's hilarious list of dual nationality mishaps was closed.
As he stood in a descending lift Dale pondered whether perhaps he was addicted to Smoothycinos. He was a very, very low-power executive and the Smoothycino was already the high point of his days. But was this really unhealthy? The more he thought about it the more he realised it probably was damaging his relationships with friends and family.
Dale walked through the sun until he once again reached climate control inside Morning Aroma's doors. His eyes scanned behind the counter until he saw her. She was the other reason for the Smoothycino obsession. Her blue eyes shone from below her bandanna. Curls of hair leaked out the back. She smiled as he approached the counter.
'Hey Hun' she greeted him, 'The usual?'
He confirmed. She moved to the back to prepare his treat. He strained his neck: to simultaneously watch her and to try and learn any hints on the Smoothycino construction process. It was useless.
'You know,' thought Dale to himself, 'I could marry a girl who could make a decent Smoothycino.'
This might have sounded like a good pickup line, but for Dale it wouldn't work. He hadn't even been with a woman since he started this job.
'Here' she said as she passed the Smoothycino, watching as he sipped.
'I put an extra scoop of ice-cream in, just for you!' she grinned.
Dale couldn't handle it. He had to do it. He was high again, high on Smoothycino.
'You know,' he blurted, but voice deep. 'I could marry a girl who could make a decent Smoothycino.'
'Really?' she and her eyebrows asked; the latter disappearing underneath the bandana.
What Dale didn't realise at the time was that Maria was actually only in Adelaide on a soon to expire Australian working visa.
Flustered, Dale persisted.
'I don't know what's the bigger highlight of my day...' he charmed '...Your warm smile or your cold treats... Or maybe getting my PsychologyOnline newsletter or the E-Legal webzine every Tuesday. Or...'
'Shhh...' she said, placing a single, coffee scented finger to his lips to stifle the rambling. Her eyes darted, counting customers.
'Do you have ten minutes?' she asked him. 'We can talk then.'
'I'm just going out for coffee' Dale's mind flashed back to earlier that morning.
'Of course I can wait' he said.
Fifteen minutes later Maria was standing close to him and finishing her proposal.
'It's just so nice here,' she concluded, 'and I really don't want to go back to New Zealand.'
Dales heart pounded. Dual citizenship immigration was what he'd read about just this morning. It was fate! He knew exactly what he needed to tell her.
'I love you.'
No, wait. That wasn't it. He knew it wasn't right as her face fell.
'No, I don't think you understand' she mumbled. 'It would just be a paper marriage. We'd work out some sort of deal; I could provide you with Smoothycino's. Or maybe tell you the secret ingredient...'
'Oh' realised Dale.
'I like Smoothycinos!' interrupted a handsome voice.
Both turned to look. He was tanned, athletic with sun-bleached hair. That cotton muscle-top did not look business casual at all. Dale doubted he could even get away with it on Informal Fridays.
Maria glanced at Dale, then back to the stranger.
'Well, thanks for listening!' she said, but to who and with what sincerity could not be gauged.
They walked off; Dale watched her go as the deep voicing explaining requirements for dual nationality faded into the distance.
Dale felt terrible. For the last few months the droll office life had been bearable with the flickering hope that somewhere, out there, something special had been waiting for him. Now he knew it actually was there all along, he just hadn't been able to accept it. Slowly he trudged back to the office, pausing once to buy a copy of The Big Issue from a hobo in a suit which was able only to compound his misery.
As he approached the security door to the back of the office Dale knew that he would be unsubscribing from e-Legal the moment he got back to his desk.
'How fitting it would be,' he thought, 'to lose not one but two of my reasons to live on the same day.'
Balancing the Big Issue and the Smoothycino in one hand Dale tried to lift his pocket to the scanner's level and begin his walk to the lifts. As the light clicked green he felt his fingers holding air instead of polystyrene and a moment later he watched his Smoothycino crash into the bitumen below his feet.
Dale paused for a second and considered shedding a clichéd single tear. But he recomposed himself. Things may be bad right now, but after all, it was almost lunch.