You’re late again. She’s already found a booth, is waiting for you. You don’t notice until you sit down that it’s the same booth you sat at the first morning after. It was winter then, or what passes for winter on the island. The rain had chilled the air enough to be seen even when you weren’t smoking.
She’s stirring a dab of cream into her coffee as you say Sorry, I got sidetracked. You don’t tell her about shaking on the toilet. You don’t tell her about crying so hard you thought you would throw up. You don’t want the conversation to give up before its even begun.
She says it’s alright, she doesn’t mind, she just got here.
You both know she’s lying.
The waitress comes to take your order. She recognizes you before getting to the table.
Oh wow, the waitress says, you’re back! I didn’t know if you’d found some other spot or something.
Yeah, you say, something like that.
And of course you order the usual. Why would you change now?
She stirs more cream into her coffee, still doesn’t take a sip. Mostly just hums along to the song playing on the jukebox in the corner. You remember the one time you tried choosing a song but all the machine did was eat your dollar and play what it wanted.
The food comes quick and you eat quietly, focusing on the plate, the disappearing food, anywhere but her eyes. They’re misty with memory, unfocused and staring. When your plate is empty you push it aside and finally ask how she’s been. She shrugs and just says Did you know this place is closing?
You mean it? You ask and she nods. Says she saw it in the paper but no one’s talking about it. Just acting like it’s all business as usual.
You watch one of the servers take a stack of plates to the back. As she pushes her way through the swinging door to the kitchen you see her face drop, a public smile dissolving into the truth as she escapes. You wonder if she’s cried so hard she threw up before. You worry for her.
You worry for them all.
Well shit is all you can say and you both know it isn’t enough.
When the cheque comes you offer to pay but she refuses. When you try again she gives you the same look she gave you the afternoon when you limped home and you don’t offer a third time.
The rain has picked up. You think it reminds you of a different day but can’t place it so you try to make a new memory instead. She lights a cigarette and offers you a lighter but you say you’ve quit. You haven’t but you want to look like you’re capable of change.
You both watch her breath escape into the sunlight, neither commenting on the way the afternoon catches up with all your plans.
James Avramenko (he/him, @anaveragemango) is a poet and podcaster who has recently relocated to Vancouver, BC, Canada. He is the host of "Friendless" a show about how to be a better friend by losing every friend you have, in which he interviews Facebook connections then unfriends them at the end of the show. He is the author of "BU TT HE AD" a collection of poetry about social anxiety, coping mechanisms, and Dolly Parton.