A Clichéd End

Near midnight, just off work arriving at a coffee shop downtown. I’ve been here, the dark blue walls, a large brushed nickel clock with hands counting twelve and 24-hour time, and blue velvet curtains framing the dozens of black and white photos depicting a young, mostly innocent city. I park the car in the dark, weed-covered lot in back.

He’s through the glass door, fourth booth back, as I stand and watch. Facing me, he’s hunched and leaning over a cup of coffee. I open the door with the tinkle of a small attached chime. His head lifts up quickly and he waves me over.

The way he’s tapping on his coffee mug is nearly hypnotic, nearly. I keep quiet. He can’t wait much longer, but no reason to make this easier, either. I’m listening to the jukebox; Petula Clark’s “Downtown.” Some college kids sit in the booth across the small glass partition. They talk about power and oppression and freedom, playing sophisticates with black hair and thrift stores. Our waitress is sitting on a stool behind the register, talking on her cell phone, smiling.

Back to here. I’m watching his finger still tap-tap-tapping, and I’m trying hard to remember what it felt like to love those fingers, hands, arms, and the man controlling them.

“I called Amy. She’s definitely driving to Vegas for Dylan’s graduation.”

“When does she leave?”

“Tomorrow morning. She wanted to know if I could house sit for her. I told her it was short notice and I’d need to talk to you.”

“She needs someone there.”  I’m certain you’re already packed, luggage in the car. You’ll be heading to Amy’s tonight.

“It’s only for four days. I’ll be back on Wednesday.”

“I can’t sit here and do this. What is it you need to tell me? Are our five years coming to an end? Why am I listening to how your day went? We both know you need to say something terrible.”

“This isn’t a break up.”

“It’s not?” There’s a mocking, almost vicious edge to my voice. “Maybe you’re going to tell me how your trip to the clinic last week ended. Maybe you think I need to get tested too. You fucking forgot my six months was four days ago, which is why I know you’re positive.”

$7.68 plus tip for pie and coffee, the perfect clichéd end to a whole series of them, even now, the beginning of the end. 

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