I. The people straggled out- coffee cup sweat stains remnants of their presence, money in the till. Two of us alone at separate tables staring outward into the dark until he turned to me and said, ‘you know, but for the grace of god go I,’ like it was a code between the two of us. I am inclined to agree, I said. I stretched.
II. How are you, she said, and I said, I’m fine. Again- she asked. She smiled at me from one angle and then moved across to me. I said, I’m fine. I’m okay, no complaints. Not yet. Her smile was melodic and her nod was persistent, again, again, I know that’s not true with each shake of the head. Her eyes grinned as she said, it gets better. It gets better. I promise. We were in an empty coffee shop and I found myself dumb knowing that if I forced a word past my choked cords the floodlines would burst and then, who knows? I’ve always been a woman who relishes adventure, controlled vulnerability, a good cup of cold brew so I looked at her instead. It gets better, I promise, then, are you okay? I said, I am not okay and she smiled- a secret. I am not okay but she said, it gets better. I promise. It will all be okay.
And then when they left, winking at me and gripping the chair lovingly like they wanted to touch me, couldn’t with the feral fear I shrouded myself in, I cried, and cried, and cried next to an old air conditioner with a force that I felt powerless to stop.
III. We ignored the children crying in the other room. I left my chair of sorrow to fill myself with music. He plays songs about landscapes. It is my first time in Arizona, he said. Mine too. He plays a song about the flatness of Kansas, disorienting, like driving a space shuttle to nowhere. The song fills the room, it makes me dizzy. He was in my hometown last week, he played at a bar I know and have never been to. This is my new CD, he said, I don’t have a tip jar.