I see David through the cafe window. When I walk in, we don’t touch.
“You found it,” he starts. There are circles under his eyes. I wonder why he hasn’t been sleeping. I’m not sure it’s my right to know anymore.
“Took me a minute, but I eventually remembered how to get here.” I say.
“They have the best chai lattes here. I can get one for you. Skim milk, right?”
I nod. I’m grimacing as I pull out my wallet, but I need to do this. “Please, I’d like to pay for my own drink.”
He ruffles up his hair at the back. “Right, of course.”
The couches are open, but it would be too weird. Why did I come today? To see if he’s okay? Maybe I don’t need a dark, ulterior motive. But, I’m squeezing myself into a corner booth, knowing I wore this shirt because he always liked it. “Tell me how work is going.” I start. Good, safe topic.
“Good. Evaluation’s next week, and then, hopefully….” Promotion. Job relocation. A fresh start. “I don’t want to jinx it,” he finishes. “How is Scribe?”
I’m not sure I want to be in publishing any more. I’m not sure…about much right now. “Things are going. We’re about to go into acquisitions for a few new series.”
“YA, strong heroine, light romance element, possible supernatural qualities.”
“I thought you told me that part of the genre was dead,” he said, rearranging the Splenda in the sugar container.
“No vampires. Something else. Waay cooler.” I smile. This part is easy. Having David around as a sounding board; I don’t need to explain my job to him. I already did that– three years ago.
And then, we kinda run out of things to talk about. He continued reordering Splenda with Domino sugar, then Sweet ‘n’ Low. Yellow, white, pink. White, pink, yellow.
“Anna, what happened?”
I keep my eyes on my latte. It’s lukewarm; I want to use it as an excuse to leave this cramped little table and breathe. I don’t move. Guilt has me ducktaped to my chair. “I don’t know, David. We’ve tried this before and always reach the same conclusion. It just…happened, okay?”
“We say that. People say that all the time. What does it actually mean? We didn’t notice? I did. You were different–”
“That sounds an awful lot like you blaming me. Again.” I say.
He shakes his head, “No. No.” He stays silent for a few moments. He bounces his hand on the side of his cup. The small rhythm fends off the awkward silence. “Do you miss me?” He doesn’t look at me.
I shake my head for a minute. I can’t speak. The edges of the room have gone watery. “David,” Don’t. Please don’t. “We were dating for nearly three years. That’s a really dumb question.” I miss him the way I miss a favorite book; how I could open to any page and be right back in the story. I knew exactly what would happen. But now, I’ve misplaced the book, lost it somewhere. But I remember the story without having it in front of me.
I don’t want to start a new book just yet.
For some reason, he smiles at that. “It feels longer than two months.”
“I…actually try not to think about it.”
“Why don’t we try again?” He asks.
Shit. Shit. I have been thinking about this question too and I still haven’t come up with a good answer as to why not.”It never works.”
“It could. Clearly, we still care about each other.”
“David!” I whisper. He doesn’t understand. It would be good for a while, then…right back to where we were. “What annoyed you most about me?”
He brings his eyebrows down. He thinks it’s a trick question.
I prod him. “Well, come on. What most?”
“You never cleaned your dishes when you were finished using them.” He looks away from me when he says it, as if he’s the guilty party.
“I still do that David. And it still doesn’t bother me. And your insistent sniffling during allergy season was enough to make me consider soundproofing the living room. We haven’t changed as people, David. Nothing has changed.”
“Nothing? Does that mean….?”
I sigh, “Ugh, I– I don’t know, alright. But it’s only been a few months. We’re going to end up right back where we started–”
“Screaming and fighting and breaking goodwill plates?” he interjects.
“if we start again right now. We need to give it time.”
He taps on the edge of his coffee cup. “How long?”
As if there’s a perfect calculation. “More months? A year? Whenever we can approach things differently.”
He looks at me, keeps looking at me, as if I’m hiding an answer behind my eyelashes. There’s no menu to keep me busy while he ponders.
“Would you wait?”
Would I? Not intentionally. I wouldn’t keep a countdown on my calendar, letting me know how long I had until I could walk up those familiar fifteen steps, knock three times, and fall into the rest of my life.
But, goddamit, it’s tempting.
“Let’s try. Please.”
The bell above the door jingles as he and I continue to look at each other and wonder what the hell to do next.