This is not good coffee
“Again, I’m really sorry for being late” Lawrence Montoya sat in front of him, in his ill-fitting suit that he wears at least three times each month. Of course he was late, how can he not be given the unpredictable traffic situation each morning from Cainta to Makati? “Traffic was unbearably bad today, worse than usual.” Of course it was. Why does he continue to insist in living so far away from the office?
“Not a problem at all, Renz.” His new boss insisted on being called by his nickname, short for Lawrence. For Jonny, this was only one of the things he abhors about him. Renz is a teenager’s nickname, not an executive of a large bank.
“I hope you weren’t too bored waiting for me, that’s why I insisted we meet in this coffee shop.”
Oh did you, Renz? Yes, I do like coffee but this is not coffee. This newly opened coffee shop in our building is not a coffee shop. And they knew your name immediately when you walked in, typical. Of course you’d drink coffee here.
“Perfect choice as always, boss!” He pulled the fakest, biggest smile he could at the moment.
Lawrence Montoya, Jonathan Lopes’ new boss for three weeks now. It was a shame Peter Pereno had to retire early. Mr. Pereno has been Jonny’s mentor for 10 years and to whom he credits all his success since joining the company. Renz, on the other hand, has been nothing but an annoyance.
“Good. We haven’t been able to actually talk since I joined the company, Jonny. I thought it would be a great idea if we can do it with something we both like – coffee!” Renz raised his cup, tilted it as if toasting another invisible cup, and took a noisy sip from it. “Now that’s good coffee.”
Jonny gave a slight head nod and took a sip of the drink served to him by the Barista. He hated it.
This is not good coffee.
“So, Jonny. I’ve heard only great things about you from Peter. It seems you were his most hard-working employee! It was no surprise that you are the youngest AVP in our company’s history.” Renz shifted in his seat, taking a more comfortable stance. Jonny hated this, he has always been told you need to sit up straight when talking to someone in authority.
Jonny, and he knows everyone else in their department, thought he would succeed Mr. Pereno as head of Credit. He was Mr. Pereno’s most trusted employee. Everyone knew that they simply need to talk to him and he can convince Mr. Pereno about anything.
“Yes, Renz. It was a shame that Mr. Pereno had to retire early. It came as a shock to us.”
“Jonny, nobody was as surprised as I about it. Peter was a kind of a celebrity in the country’s banking sector! I don’t think I anyone can be able to fill his shoes!”
No, then why did you stop his endorsement of me?! I was supposed to be the new head of Credit!
“No worries, Renz. Me and the team will help you as much as we can – and should.”
Renz simply smiled, looked up at the ceiling as if thinking of something, and sat back further in his seat.
Jonny hated the seating in this poor excuse of a coffee shop. It was all wooden chairs. Not even a single couch. Comically, he thought, it was a metaphor of their menu as well. Everything was hard, not a single thing that is easy to drink.
“What have you heard about me, Jonny?” Renz asked this without even looking at him. To this, Jonny could not hide the disdain in his face. He has been taught by his parents and even Mr. Pereno that he has to always give his 100% attention to someone he was talking to in a business setting. He glared at Renz, not really wanting to answer his question.
As if noticing that Jonny has not spoken in a few seconds, Renz finally (slowly) cast his gaze back to Jonny. Jonny stopped glaring, but he switched to a scowl. Renz had an almost bored look in his face. If he thought Jonny was showing insubordination by not answering him or even by how he’s looking at him now, he didn’t show it in his facial features.
There was just silence between the two, made even more obvious by just how few people there was in this coffee shop. Aside from Jonny and Renz, there were only 4 other people here – including the two baristas.
“I’ve heard that you were instrumental in cutting down the workforce of Banco Periodico. A lot of people lost their jobs, including some of my friends.” All niceties were gone, Jonny could not hide his anger for this man and his ways. Mr. Pereno believed in building a team full of caring people, this big-shot wannabe didn’t care about loyalty. All he wanted was to decrease expenses. Typical Ayala Avenue Executive, never caring about people.
“Yes, you are correct but I would change that slightly to that I ensured BP will be lean enough to focus on the well-being of their clients” another noisy sip of coffee “In fact, my actions have led to the growth of BP into the second largest bank in the Philippines last year”.
“And now you want to take down the number one with your ways? There’s a reason NB is as successful as it is. Peter Pereno made sure we can satisfy all the big customers, vastly improving the company’s commercial loan portfolio by 120%!” He had to ball his fists up to prevent himself from standing and striking this imbecile.
Peter Pereno did not get the recognition he deserved! He should have been the new President, not you! He should have been President and I the new head of Credit! What is this farce of not naming a new Credit Head and making the Credit Department report directly to your office?
What he really wanted now was his favorite drink – a cold, sweet Frappe from the shop three blocks away from the office. He always went there first before reporting to work. In fact, his staff probably didn’t notice that their boss isn’t in their floor yet, an hour after the open of business. Frappes, to him, are the most perfect form of the coffee drink. It still blew his mind why in this day and age, some coffee shops still refused to sell them – including this one.
“Jonny, what else have you heard about me?” Renz was unmoved by Jonny’s outburst. He continued to slouch there, with that bored look but staring intently at Jonny.
To this Jonny hesitated, his anger somewhat diffused. Did he really just speak like that to the President of the most powerful bank in the Country? Did he just throw away all the glamour that he was enjoying from his position? He loved the power given to him by Mr. Pereno. He won’t be able anymore to live again like when he was when living with his parents in Antipolo.
“Mr. Montoya, I’m sorry. I just was not able to sleep properly last night-“
“What else have you heard about me, Jonny?” Mr. Montoya’s voice lowered this time and he started to sit straighter. He still had the same look on his face but Jonny now feels like the man was trying to read his mind.
What does this maniac want me to tell him? Does he know?
Jonny took a deep breath before answering. He knew there were beads of sweat forming in his forehead. “I heard that you are able to read the minds of men.”
“Surely you don’t believe that nonsense, Jonny?”
“Of course not, sir.”
Mr. Montoya waved his hand in the air nonchalantly. “Please, Jonny, I told you to call me Renz.” He motioned with his right index finger to the Barista, “another one, please. Aeropress this time.”
The Barista simply nodded and proceeded to prepare the drink. Mr. Montoya finished the coffee in his first order. “Are you sure you don’t want to drink that, Jonny? It gets sweeter as it cools down.”
“I need sugar and creamer to drink black coffee sir, I mean Renz”
“You don’t, Coffee is naturally sweet.” They both sat in silence while waiting for Mr. Montoya’s new order. Jonny wanted to check his phone, but he didn’t think it would be appropriate now. After a few more minutes, the new coffee was finally on the table in front of the company President.
“Now, Jonny. It is true that I did cause the loss of jobs of a lot of bankers in Banco Periodico but I assure you it was for the best. If I didn’t, then the bank would have been gone by now.” Mr. Montoya took another noisy sip of his coffee. He smirked and nodded subtly. It seemed he liked his coffee. He put his cup down and stared directly at Jonny. They stayed like this for a few more seconds. It was so quiet that Jonny swears he can hear the dripping of water from the cups that the baristas had recently cleaned and left to dry in a rack near the sink.
“As for National Bank, we have a different more dangerous issue. It could potentially be of a legal kind, something even I might not be able to do something about.”
“I had no idea sir. Is it that bad?”
“I’m afraid so. See when you look at it, the bank is thriving as ever. But if you really knew what you were doing, you would know that it is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode” Mr. Montoya took another sip of the coffee and this time turned towards the Barista and silently flashed him the OK sign. The Barista beamed with pride after this.
“It will be messy but at the end of the day I know how Corporate Greed works. I may not exactly be able to read the minds of people but I can easily put myself in their shoes. My years of experience in the industry possibly has taught me something that not any University will be able to” he resumed to slouch back in his chair and again just stared at Jonny.
“Like I said it will be messy and the investigation will take too long and waste the resources of the company, and more importantly the taxpayers money. It will also, in the end, lead to the closure of this fine institution. If you thought laying off 200 people was ruthless, how about 1,000 without proper severance packages?”
Jonny could not believe what he was hearing. He seemed to be as cold as the cup of black coffee in front of him that he hasn’t touched.
“Jonny, I know you love coffee. Second-wave coffee, to be exact. I know you have also made a comfortable living out of your work with National Bank. I, for one, am a fan of your well-curated Instagram page. You could be a new type of influencer, son – someone who actually has influence.”
What is he saying? I never told anyone about that Instagram page. The cars I have been parading there were of Peter’s. I never showed my face!
“I want you to continue living the Filipino dream, Jonny.” Mr. Montoya was holding his cup at the lip now, just holding it there as if preventing it to fly away. Apt, that’s how Jonny feels right now – as if this old man has his grasps firmly on him.
Mr. Montoya once again had that bored look on his face but his eyes were boring onto Jonny’s existence. Jonny felt himself sweat more profusely.
“Pereno and Reyes greenlit a lot of loans that were not supposed to be approved, did they not- Jonny?”
“Yes, Mr. Montoya”. It actually surprised Jonny how quickly he answered.
“They forced all of you to rate those loans as investment grade even though they were shit.” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement.
Jonny only nodded this time. His eyes were actually welling up.
“You were rewarded with promotions to approve them and present them as good during Credit Committee meetings.”
“That is true, Mr. Montoya.” He was crying but not out of sadness; he was crying because of shame. Shame he let himself be used by his former boss, shame that he is now selling him out to his new one. Mr. Montoya proceeded to drink his coffee in silence as Jonny sat there crying. When it was over, his tears also finally stopped.
“I’ll see you upstairs, in my office later. Gather yourself up here for a few minutes; don’t want your people to see you like how you are now. We will make your statement official. You can ask for your lawyer to be with you, however know that I can make this more difficult for you. Also, think that you are helping save the livelihood of hundreds of your peers.”
Jonny just nodded, not daring to look at Mr. Montoya now. He heard the old man stand up, count a few paper bills, and leave them under his cup in the table.
“This was a nice early morning discussion, Jonny. I look forward to working with you more in the future.” With that, Mr. Montoya finally walked out of the shop, leaving Jonny as a disheveled mess. He had ratted out two men he used to look up to, knowing that their and their family’s lives will be forever broken. He knew he should have blowed the whistle back then, but he liked the money and power that came from not doing so.
He finally started to drink his coffee, now cold from just sitting there in the table during the whole meeting. He mimicked Mr. Montoya’s way of taking noisy sips.
He was right, this coffee really is sweet. This is good coffee.
Disclaimer: This rambling story was inspired by a scene from Chapter 1 of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds
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Categories: stories with kape