Small, one-week break from “The Rain’s Truth”. Enjoy!
When I get to the coffee shop there’s a line, of course, there’s always a line. It’s only annoying because I don’t have to think about what I want. Usually I would’ve had to think about it, but I’ve been thinking about this for the past day or so. Unfortunate situations are generally something you want to go over before they happen. At least you do if you’re me. Thinking about where the conversations could go generally helps me deal with them better. Especially if there’s going to be crying involved. There’s going to be crying in this one.
Lizzie called me a couple of days ago to set this up. She works with him, with Dave that is. They’re in the same platoon… She just got back, presumably so did he, but that doesn’t stop me from worrying. I’d like to say that I’m not a worrier, but when it comes to people you love going into a war zone… Everyone worries; especially when a friend calls to set up a meeting at a coffee shop just after coming home from Afghanistan. I’ve predicted the worst, and I already spent much of the previous night crying. I despise crying in public.
At the front of the line I order a latte. When the girl asks for my name I look at my phone.
“Uh… I asked for your name?”
“Yes, and my response was 2:43 pm.”
“Oh. Okay… Haven’t had anyone use the time before. I totally don’t…” I stop listening. She’s not important and I don’t have to listen to her false interest. I give a half-smile when she’s done talking. We can both pretend that it’s out of interest for the conversation, but we both know I’m patronizing her. We exchange money, and I wait for my drink.
Lizzie walks in then, to a considerably lessened line. I swallow hard when I see her. Just off the plane she’s still stiff-postured. Her eyes scan quietly, glancing around without looking like she’s glancing around.
She orders her drink. I don’t wave. I know she saw me, and I know she saw me see her. There are a couple of other people waiting, such that Lizzie’s done ordering her drink before I get mine. She comes up next to me and stands there, nods slowly, quietly. I return my attention to the bar. It’s funny really, I always think of it as waiting on deck before a show. I used to dance in high school, and do theater. I guess I think the coffee won’t disagree with my stomach if I sympathize with it. Then again, sympathy is something I’ve been told I have in abundance.
My drink comes up and I move over to the counter to put sugar in it, four packets for a small, arranged with the sealed edge alternating which side it’s facing. Shake, rip, pour, stir, taste the stirrer to see if I can tell (beyond that it’s wooden) if that’s enough. Decide it always is and put the lid back on. Focusing on automatic, habitual tasks help me to not cry in public. I turn and Lizzie is standing right there. I look around the café, scanning for tables and find one suitably far away enough that should my emotions get the better of me it won’t be terribly embarrassing. Sometimes, I despise that I can’t cry in public; sometimes I despise my self-control.
We sit. I drink my latte, and we make small-talk. I force a smile on my face and force out whatever encouraging noises I can. I wait. I’ve also been told I have the patience of a saint, but just because people can’t see my impatience doesn’t mean it’s not there. I also prefer cultures where when one comes up for business, business is discussed. I do not like mixing the personal observations and anecdotes that formulate small-talk with business; telling me someone I love may or may not be dead is firmly in the business category. But I recognize that Lizzie may not be able to tell me that just out of the blue, and we still have coffee to drink, so we may as well run out of things to say after we run out of coffee.
That’s the theory anyways. 2:43 pm is half-way gone before the silence descends. I stare at the cup, at the time marked onto it, at the liquid inside. I make some poetic analogy in my head about extending moments in order to be comfortable with the silence.
The main reason I haven’t asked what this is about is because I’m not certain I want to know. There’s the horrible chance that someone I love is very likely dead, and despite the nature of our relationship, it would be a psychological trauma to know for sure… It would be cowardice to hide forever though. She finishes her coffee before she’s ready to speak again. 2:43 pm is now three-quarters gone.
“There was a surprise attack at the station we were assigned too. An RPG hit the tank he was working on, exploding the fuel. It shouldn’t have happened… They sent his stuff home, informed his parents, and they’ve probably already had the service by now. It happened three months ago.”
It’s the last part that kills me. Not surprising because we broke up before he left. I’m not a major force in his life, and I have no delusions about where exes fall in the list of people to tell. I breathe deeply, but I can’t bring myself to look at Lizzie.
“I’m sorry; I know he still meant a lot to you… I was trying to figure out a way to tell you, but Curtis left for boot camp two weeks before it happened…” Curtis would have been the only way for me to find out, and I didn’t even know he was gone. I sigh.
“Thank you for telling me.” I leave 2:43 pm where it’s at.