The week my mind apparently finds my own life too mundane to write about, I stumble upon Death to the Stock, which can only mean one thing. Please take this time to enjoy some Thursday evening creative dabbling by yours truly.
P.S. To those of you who might not be familiar with my writing: Lots of my pieces are inspired by the emotional experience I have while listening to particular songs. To get the full experience, click here and put it on repeat until you’re done reading.
The soft acoustic guitar melody playing overhead cut out again with the scream of the coffee machine behind her. She uncrossed her legs, and then crossed them again – right leg over the left – to resettle herself on the bar stool.
She should’ve known that he would pick the most legitimately hipster, out-of-the-way cafe in town. Barely-buffed mahogany tabletops and countertops lined all five walls of the corner-lodged building. The baristas, well, they looked like him, with their forearm tattoos peeking out from under their rolled shirt sleeves. They all laughed and bantered together, even while refilling the glass coffee pots the waitresses brought around the cafe floor. Granted, they were occasionally slow on the uptake, as they were now, but the imperfection helped soothe her nerves, if only just.
Anxious fingers toyed with her iPhone, flipping it onto its back, then its front, and back again. Her thumb slipped and caught on the home key. The white numbers floated just above her boyfriend and her heads in the image: 9:53. If seven hours had already felt like a desperate, late notice cancellation attempt, then seven minutes was definitely not acceptable. She let her phone fall back onto its face.
She ran a hand through her hair, pulled at the knees of her jeans, and readjusted the hem of her beige cardigan twice before chiding herself. There was absolutely no logical reason for her to be this nervous about meeting her ex. Her hand reached for her hair again, but she dropped it just in time.
She wasn’t nervous. That was silly. She just didn’t want to see him, and now that she thought about it, she couldn’t remember why she’d said yes in the first place. It was probably because she’d just felt bad saying no that afternoon when they’d run into each other in the same parking lot of the same grocery store where they’d met while waiting for their respective parents to pick them up after high school in their senior year.
They hadn’t seen each other, much less spoken to each other, since they’d broken up over a year ago. With three and a half years of history weighing on their shoulders in that moment, she couldn’t bring her tongue to the roof of her mouth to say no to his face, not without recalling the burn of tears on her cheeks the morning they broke up. She still wasn’t sure if they had been of anger or of regret.
The coffee machine silenced just in time for her to hear the end of his “Morning.”
She swiveled about, catching herself on the countertop before she completed her orbit on the stool. The door was swinging shut behind his altogether familiar but foreign slump-shouldered form, and he hadn’t been acknowledging her.
No, he had been smiling at the blond waitress, the one whose haircut made her look like she’d stepped out of The Great Gatsby and whose outfit suggested that she’d just walked off the catwalk in Paris. Maybe she was from that one cheesy movie with the actor with the crooked nose. She’d never liked him.
And then he was looking at her, smile faltering as he sidestepped the path of the waitress, but continuing to hang resolutely from the dimples in his cheeks. And she somehow found herself smiling back, found herself sliding off the stool, stumbling on her sleeping left foot, and walking into his open arms.
He still used the cologne she’d first bought for him on their one-year anniversary.
She wasn’t sure if she could ever forgive herself for the way she’d sidestepped the two-seater couch to avoid sitting next to him – only to sheepishly slink back to her previously rejected seat when another patron asked to use her single chair at his neighboring table. But then again, she knew he was still kicking himself for his “But your boyfriend’s only got brothers, hasn’t he?” comment earlier.
He’d never met her current boyfriend. She’d never told him about her current boyfriend until today.
A coffee, tea, and a shared lemon-blueberry tartlet later, she was wondering why she’d been loathing to meet him in the first place. Seeing him, right foot kicked up on his left knee, mug settled into the natural cup-holding dip between his legs, lounging in the corner of the couch was a sight that felt so natural to her.
It was only when she found herself instinctively pulling at the collar of her t-shirt that she realized how she was sitting. Mug perched in her hands, elbows propped on her knees, and body leaning toward him. She immediately fell back into the sofa.
His eyes had never drifted down to the sight of her offered cleavage, but a small wave of guilt pressed at her stomach and throat. She willed the fruity pastry to stay down.
“You okay?” His brow furrowed. 21 years of worries showed a lot more than 20 years had.
“Look – No, thank you.” He waited until Gatsby girl left with her coffeepot before continuing. “Look. I’m not here to try and win you back.”
“I just wanted my best friend back.”
She glanced at the table before them: two mugs stained from long-finished and long-standing coffee; two mugs with tea bags plastered to their walls; and one plate with two forks – one resting neatly on the side after having picked up all the crust crumbs and the other lying on the table nearby from allowing the other to better reach the entire tiny plate.
She reached a hand out to line up the mismatched forks – one was plain but sleek and the other short but adorned with vintage patterns – next to each other on the face of the plate.
His 21 years of worry had deepened to 25.
“So why don’t you ask out Gatsby girl?”
“Gatsby girl.” She surreptitiously inclined her chin in the direction of the pixie-haired waitress. “10 o’clock?”
25 turned back into 19. “How’d you know?”
She picked up the first mug – his mug – and swallowed the last sip of coffee. It was cold after having stood out for over two hours, and bitter from having collected the thicker grinds. “‘Cause I’m your best friend?”
“Hm.” He glanced at Gatsby girl, who was currently nibbling on a sandwich while waiting on a fresh pot of coffee. “Was that cold coffee worth being so smug?”
“Not at all.”
And that 19 turned back into her 18.