“Morning Song” by Lumineers from Lumineers
I had not left the house that day with the intention of people watching or spying or whatever you’d like to call it. I’m not a voyeur by nature. Truth is I suffer too badly from vicarious embarrassment to watch other people’s interactions with any kind of closeness, typically.
Today though, I forgot to charge my phone overnight and I was worried about the interview I had scheduled for later in the day. Your phone going dead in the middle of an interview feel unprofessional for the job you have repeatedly called “your dream.” (A lie, but everyone seems excited for me when I say it, including/especially the recruiter. Not being evicted and not being harassed by well-meaning friends and family makes calling it my dream worth it.)
So rather than spend my morning in my favorite coffee shop enjoying something they call a “WAKE UP BOMB” and playing Marvel Puzzle Quest on my phone, I instead drank said bomb and tried to avoid eye contact with any well-meaning morning people. Lonely or not, I have zero interest in a chipper early riser giving me their phone number.
Naturally, as the coffee shop emptied out and I began to feel the effects of excessive amounts of caffeine, I started to listen to the conversations around of. There was Senor Script Doctor who would type eight words, give or take, make an angry phone call to his “agent,” type 8 more words, and call someone else to bemoan his lack of luck. Rinse, repeat.
There was Ignored Mother Ingrid who called her children, one after the other, and left increasingly passive aggressive messages. I felt sorry for her until she got picked up by a 6’ 5” blonde man who looked like Steve Rogers stepped off the pages of Captain America. Hard to feel sorry for a 60-year-old woman who is apparently rolling around in her spacious bed with a physically perfect specimen when my last date was…well, long enough ago, none of your business, let it go!
It was as I reach the final third of my behemoth beverage that they walked in. One could sense there was something amiss with them immediately. Well one could, but he certainly could not. Cal. That’s the name I gave him. For Clueless Cal. I called her Trish. Because I had a class with a girl named Trish who honestly seemed wicked cool and I always wanted to be friends with but she dropped our mutual class and I like never saw her on campus.
Anyway, Cal was blissful. Excited. Friendly. Trish looked like she was ready to kill a bear. Not in an angry way, but like she knew she had to kill a bear and had prepared herself emotionally for that reality. She would take no joy in it, but nature demanded it be done.
He ordered a soda. In a coffee shop. I can’t prove it, but if she had any mercy left to give, he eliminated in that moment. She declined a damn thing. She was a warrior. She would drink after the victory.
As he tucked into his large cup of fizzy sugar water, he also pushed a small box across the table at her. “Just because,” he said with a smile. My heart broke for him. Oh sweetie. He was no bear. He was a bunny. But she was hunter and she still had to do what was necessary.
It was a necklace. A pretty one from the looks of it. A mix of regret and sadness moved across her face. She was no monster after all. Then her face tightened again. Too little too late, I imagine the voice in her head told her.
She started slowly but gained steam. First, she laid the necklace on the table between them. Then, a verbal feint, “I’m sure you expected this.” A sad gentle smile. He leaned in. He was dead and didn’t even know it.
The details, the reasons, they honestly don’t matter. What matters was how he…folded. As if a black hole opened in the center of him and began to pull him into himself. His face flushed and then blanched. His jaw tightened. Her tried to speak once or twice and then…just gave up. He eyes went wet. Tears rolled. Then stopped. His eyes were now blank. Empty. Something had been pulled out of him.
Finally, he whispered, his voice a cracked stick of hope, “But…love?” She shook her head, “Yes, but…” a shrug, “Not enough. Not really.”
He deflated fully then. Bones turned to jelly. Head drooping, chin bouncing on his chest. She stood, her fingers dragging across the small table, like the last bit of her hesitance had all gathered there in a last-ditch effort to stop her. It didn’t work. She was gone a moment later.
He finally looked at the ceiling and exhaled hard. He ran his hands through his hair. He took out his phone, paused, and put it back in his pocket.
I thought about going over. I even started to walk towards him. But my legs kept me going, out the door, across the parking lot. Back to my car. I thought about “but…love” and burst into tears. He wasn’t talking for himself in that moment. He was talking for us all. The clueless, the romantics, the idiots, the too hopeful, the never say dies. I suspect he’ll never make that mistake again, to think love is some kind of shield against pain, against differing viewpoints, against boredom, against dumping. So I cried for that too. Because as silly as it is to imagine love like that, life is a bit brighter when you still can.