I wrote this, today, while witnessing the scene at my coffee-shop-of-choice:
They grip each other's forearms across the table.
The woman cries, her brows pulling inward, her lips curling, looking imploringly into the man's eyes. He returns her gaze, but his is more sympathetic and contrite and less one of devastation. He reclaims one hand and cups his chin. His body language is apologetic.
He gets her coffee from the counter. She takes it and allows her shoulders to curve inward, her body to convulse for a moment. Then she straightens again.
Sitting at her feet is a massive backpack with an airline luggage tag marked SEA. Has she come all this way to get dumped?
She whispers. He shrugs.
I try not to look. I have to look. My eyes twitch back and forth and up and down like a golden retriever's.
I have been thinking hard, lately, about significant people slipping into our lives...about that first moment when we see or meet someone who is to become crucial (a friend, a husband or wife), an axis on which we revolve, or, probably more accurately, a body that revolves around us while we revolve around her or him.
If only you could know this when you first come into contact. If only you could actually see the glint, like orange streamers of light shooting off a sparkler that would tell you: this person is going to mean something big. This person is going to change how you think, how you feel, what you want. Perhaps subtly. But still.
I know, though, that wanting this instant recognition is just the writer in me. The writer with a taste for what is cinematic.
It's best, I'm sure, that things unfold, quietly at first, undramatically. Otherwise we'd be too self-conscious. The weight of what's coming might cause us to botch things completely.
I wonder if the woman saw the streamers when she first met the man. Or if their relationship progressed at a slow, sensible pace.
She drinks her coffee. She doesn't taste it. I know this. She doesn't see me. She doesn't see the group of fifty-somethings sitting around a low table or the blank backsides of laptops. She doesn't feel the cool May air on her bare shoulders.
The man looks down now, chastened. He met a person (her) who meant something to him, who he meant a lot to, and now he's closing it down. Snuffing out the brightness.
She wipes her face. She takes money from her wallet and hands him a five dollar bill. They stand. She hoists the pack onto her back with no help from him. They leave.
I see them walk past the window, her face still contorted, his solemn.
I wonder if it's really over. Or if it's just the beginning of the end.