A Meeting between Friends

I arrived at the coffee shop near Midland early. I was always early when it came to friendly meetings. (Yes, I know that it was rude to be late, but if that was really true, then for those who come too early, weren’t you forcing the others to become late on your behalf?) I felt unhappy that there sounded something like some truth in that thought, but I forced that unpleasant feeling back.

Today was not a day to be unhappy. Here I was, vaccinated, masked, relaxed, and I was going to get to see my friend again after so long. I ordered an ice coffee, because while a hot coffee grown cold is sad, an iced coffee that gets a little watery is simply laughable. I opened the book I brought – “Daisy and the Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid – and settled in to glance over my favorite parts.

She arrived about five minutes after our meeting time, shaking an umbrella closed and throwing back her mess of long dark hair. She seemed pale, but didn’t we all after quarantine? The faint misting from the rain gave her a freshly-scrubbed look, though, and I couldn’t help but remember how beautiful I thought she was (I always thought she was beautiful, even back in college when she had that uncomfortable freshman look we all had – she owned that discomfort though, laughed through it, made it elegant).

I didn’t speak up once I seen her, and pretended to be absorbed into my reading – in a way, I was. Perhaps she seen my eyes, or simply knew my usual tricks , because her face made that small, sexy, teasing smile and she quickly rushed to me.

“Aren’t you going to hug me?” The question sounded somehow like an accusation, brimming with a secretive tone you could only share with friends.

I stood with her in line as she ordered her coffee with a great deal of “Hum, umm…” (Café macchiato, the barista made the foam in the shape of a heart, she took a picture and posted it somewhere online, my phone embarrassingly buzzed.) Once we sat down together, we began to speak in bursts and starts, trying to settle into an old conversation that we could pick up from over a year ago. Between eager mouthfuls of coffee (her lipstick faintly stained the cream-colored cup with a thin streak of blood red) she recounted her life. Her new job was thrilling, but of course Covid took some of the wind out of the excitement – still, she was able to trace an upward path for the rest of her life, ever seeking comfort and new methods of self-pleasure.

I listened, but my mind was unfocused. Her words melted away and I felt like melting away too, carried on the mildly raspy timbre of her voice. She was so physical when I felt lacking. I existed like a ghost does – a memory in the shape of person that haunted things of significance. She was that significant thing. (Hm, I don’t like that thought, either.)

We eventually got around to the awkwardness of failing to keep in touch. Depression, falling in and out of love with people and things, the missed text that felt awkward to respond to so late – I think we covered every reason and probably uncovered some discomforting truths about modern companionship, but we smiled, shared a sip of one another’s coffee (“During a pandemic? How daring are we, today?”), and forgave one another as we always do.

In time, our coffee cups and conversations alike were drained. Our bodies leaned over the table towards one another in our mutual conspiracy, sharing only smiles and the occasional murmured query about the song played dimly over in the back of the cafe. The rain was beginning to come down harder, and while we purred between old pop-rock ballads, she was the first to say:

“I think it’s time to go.”

She reached across the table, the light catching on her economical wedding band, and stole my book with a wink. “Your taste has always been pretty good. I’m already excited.” And then she was gone.

I had taught myself over the years to not follow her out, to not linger in her periphery, in hope of… what, exactly? (I know exactly what.) I took her book from her side of the table and thumbed through it. “The Night Circus” it said, in sensual red-over-black. I didn’t read the back of the book because I had always thought her taste was pretty good, too (besides, synopses often spoil).

I left the coffee shop near Midland late (I was always late when it came to love).

11 thoughts on “A Meeting between Friends

  1. I haven’t had time enough to catch up and actually read much of late. I couldn’t decide what they were to each other. Ex married partners? And, also in my mind they carried on an on off illicit affair? I hope so anyway. I’m probably missing something. and probably due to time constraints. It was strange, but also normal, reading a story pitted against the backdrop of these Covid times. I’ve never experienced it before. I’ll come back more with a cuppa in future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I simply cannot believe that WordPress thought your lovely words were spam, Lubesh. Can you believe that – SPAM? I’m simply outraged, but am delighted to find I can reply.

      Former partners, lovers, many affairs later… we delude ourselves to find happiness and end up forming sad but comfortable reading clubs.

      I did debate a few times about how irregular I should keep the pacing – should I include the thoughts in parenthesis, actually break them into their own paragraphs, etc. – maybe it went a little too far if it felt needless confusing. It needs a polish, that’s for sure, but that’s why I’ve always had you and your lot around, old friend. Peruse at your pleasure, my recollections are yours to enjoy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh man, what a reply. I miss those times. I might not always get it, and the fault be not your own, but I adapt, and, I will be back. I am so busy saving the world, or more – my supper! Since your comment, I am enjoying the freedom I had and have now to let them play out. I like that in any story. We should, I think, never limit ourselves to the author’s intent, or at least try not to. Blasphemous, but doable – esp. in opening that other dimension. But, don’t spoon feed as you dutifully edit. Re WP, yeah **** spam, and, in me prime, too! But, moving on. Do take care young sir.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course we mustn’t limit ourselves! Reality is limiting by nature, but literature should have no boundaries. And yes I’ve seen your hand upon the world, saving it from moment to moment. I had just enough sugar for my coffee the other day and whispered, “Thank heavens for Anita!”

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  3. P.S. I do love your clarification of these former partners, scattered affairs. Lovely! Dreamworld! Ahem, I am happily married still lol. Not sure you know this, but, Jay Nabonne, former SM editor, is now my husband lol. 9 years this April.

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  4. ‘I never meant to “return to the hobby of writing” because I never meant to leave it behind’. Gosh. That is wonderful. That resonates with me so much. I read your article, ‘About this space’, which I could not comment on. I can draw some parallels. I always used to write with an open blank word doc. Stare at it and type one word way down a page, and, I had to get to that word somehow and no forethought – even before I thought I might be able to write something. It was a challenge and a thrill. I left it for quite a while after the dissolution of Storiesmania. But, like your reminiscences about past communities (mine was always one community) and with the passing of my dad, who persuaded me before he died to keep writing, it made me reengage with writing, and hence my blog – solely for him. My links were broken and I was on my own, writing, sourcing pictures; I was content in making it pretty. I fixed the links, and the world came flooding in. It has been haphazard since then, but I do enjoy trying to write lol… Though, today, it is harder to find the space. I reblog and rejig, but, I have yet to actually ‘create without deleting. One day. Maybe if I reach my CRUK target this summer, I ill come back to the fold.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Once again, WP restricts what can be done in my little collections of recollections. Perhaps future commenters can say hullo in the future.

      I always thought I was good with the quaint comment, even more so in how shockingly true it is. I never meant to leave. I never wanted to. Life forced me into a place where writing became so distant, so unfathomably difficult to return to, and it was terrible. It feels like only in the last few years that I’ve managed to realize that I was unhappy with such circumstances and began to try and… well, remember (recollect, if you will, ho ho ho) those feelings I had when I wrote, so long ago. I only heard about the dissolution of SM years after the fact. What a shock that was. I thought about reaching out from that point, but I felt like there was a stigma attached to that – like I had abandoned a place that might have needed that voracious fool boy.

      I’m sorry to hear about your father, but I’m glad that writing carries his spirit. I recall your works, old friend, you were bound to attract readers and I’m glad you continue to piece together those words, reaching for that next page and fill the void between your words.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I am happy you found your pen once more and that here is a connection now. People, regarding SM, found their way in life, which was inevitable as we all grow and life calls. The internet began its changes too, and we were left with bots and spammers really, so little point in continuing, I could not devote the time or heart any longer to just that. So I left. I felt badly but Jir knew also Plus, we were being hacked a lot. But the death throes were there very obvious. Thank you for your kind words re my dad and me.

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