It's been a long time since you came around
Been a long time but I'm back in town
This time, I'm not leaving without you
--Lady Gaga, You and I
He grabbed the coffee from the counter and wove back through the half-sleeping, half-inpatient line.
Not many people actually sat in the coffee shop that time of day. So close to nine. The chatterers came much earlier and already filtered out. That's probably why he was drawn to glance up from his IPhone as he approached the table where a woman was sitting. Or maybe there was some weird kind of vibe that caught his attention. Or maybe it was the sense of something familiar in his peripheral vision. But, he did look up. And it shocked him.
"Holy crap," he said.
Probably not the best thing to say to a former lover, in retrospect.
But she didn't flinch. Or act insulted. Small things like that didn't move her. They never did. She just sat as if the two of them hadn't gone their separate ways three years earlier. As if she didn't live more than half a country away these days and had no business at all being back in the city.
"Hello to you too," she said.
He scrambled. Blinked. Tried to string together some words. They just fell apart before they reached his mouth.
"What am I doing here?" she said for him.
He nodded, more relieved than annoyed that she still read him effortlessly.
"Oh. Visiting." He nodded more. "I see."
The coffee was burning his hand.
"Are you surprised?" she said.
"Um, yes. 'Surprised.' That would cover it pretty exactly. Very well, in fact."
"Not what you were expecting this particular morning," she said.
"No. That's right. Definitely right. You are super, totally right."
"Aren't you going to ask me who I'm visiting?"
"Whom, you mean?"
"Always the comedian. I miss that. Yes, aren't you going to ask me whom I'm visiting?"
"Yes. Tell me. Whom are you--"
He choked. On nothing in particular.
"Are you okay?"
"Sure. Mmm hmmm." He choked more. "Excuse me," he croaked.
"Take your time."
He put the coffee down on her table. Now his eyes were tearing. Great.
"Maybe you want to drink a sip of your coffee. That might help," she said.
He shook his head. "Too hot," he managed to get out.
After clearing his throat, wiping his eyes, and coughing the rest of the tickles out, he tried to get his voice back on track, "but…isn't it…kind of…usual…."
She was ever patient.
"…to make some arrangements, before, I mean, with the person you're visiting?"
"Like to make sure they are there, and available, and all that?"
"No. Not this time," she said.
She looked around the shop. "You still come here for coffee," she said.
"Apparently. Do you want some?"
She stared at him.
He wasn't good at staring back.
"We're having dinner tonight," she said, finally.
"Yes, I've made reservations."
"Wow. Dinner? Reservations? Okay."
"You'll get over the shock of all this by then. We can have a bottle of wine. That will help."
He inched toward the door. Backwards. Kind of a clumsy, low-speed escape.
"Wow, it's almost nine?" he said. "I'm going to be late for work."
"Probably. I'll pick you up in front of your building at 6:00 p.m."
He reached the threshold. "That's perfect. For dinner, I mean. 6:00 p.m. Great. Got it."
He turned to the door, but stopped.
He stopped, and thought, and breathed once or twice. He moved aside so the other customers could go in and out.
"Are you okay?" she said.
A new emotion has managed to piece itself together in from his initial, scattered wits. "You know," he said, "it's actually pretty incredible to see you. I mean, I just…." But he didn't finish.
For the first time, she didn't look so controlled or confident. Her voice wavered.
"Me too," she said softly. "Me too."