I sat next to heartbreak at the coffee shop this afternoon. I didn’t mean to. I could feel the energy before I sat down, I just didn’t believe myself. It was the most civil of breakups.
What is pain when it’s dressed in such gentility? Does it make less of a tearing sound?
She is slim and undulating like the stem of a new poppy; someone unused to sitting still. Young, so young and beautiful, not a mark on her, tawny long hair wound and wrapped, in and over itself, down her back.
Outside it’s a spring day. Everyone has bare arms. I sit here in something long sleeved, unprepared in so many ways.
She wears a barely there tank top over a black and white polka dot bra. Lithe, narrow thighs in blueberry stretch pants, flip flops on feet so young, barely used, they disdain augmentation.
He sits opposite. He’s more uncomfortable than she is. At first I don’t realize it. I have arrived at the beginning. The subject of the end of the world is just opening. I sit facing the other way to proffer something like privacy but I hear the words float towards me, low and intense.
I am aware of the body language. She squirms on her hard back chair like she’d rather be somewhere else. Folds and refolds her legs, faces this way, then that.
He opens with a question. She squirms some more. Lifts her hands, spreads them, long fingered and wide, looks down, mumbles exasperated: You see everything is broken.
It comes out like a small explosion.
I don’t hear anything for awhile. There’s just the shifting and squirming and I think she is crying. After she said ‘broken’ she put her head down and they’re both sitting quietly waiting for her to regain her composure. I don’t know if she will. Perhaps she’ll be carried out. Everything is broken.
Time passes, the silence gives way. Odd words catch me. “I am not angry” he says
“this is just pain”.
A minute later he laughs. They are uncomfortable. She wants to go, he wants her to stay. She is breaking up with him. Everything is broken, so she is breaking him also.
The laughter drowns the wrenching sound. The stop of blood in veins reluctant to flow. He is flattened, trying to sound buoyant.
The late, gold, coffee- sun-air is full of music. The singer is steaming, hissing and wailing. Music to break up to.
She moans: Baby, baby, please.
The ex-couple next to me have their elbows on the table and their fingers intertwined. She leans forward to kiss his hand.
He is saying: you are beautiful.
She is looking away.
He is saying: I won’t get fall-down drunk...
What will you do? He asks.
I can’t hear her.
You always say that. He is velvet-wrapped angry.
You always say that. You say it and then it happens.
It doesn’t have to be this hard, she says.
Down her head goes. She takes her hand away.
A little later more laughter. Not heads thrown back laughter just, ‘what can you do’ laughter.
She gets up, glides up, a delicate, fresh slice of woman. Moves in the direction of the restroom. I can’t see her face.
He sits there, elbows on the table, smile gone. His hands are balled into fists. He is covering his eyes with his bunched up hands. Still as a statue. I have time to stare. Is he crying?
He takes his hands away, I look down. He slides a finger under his eye and wipes it on his T-shirt sleeve.
She comes back. They sit a minute longer in silence. She has her hands on her lap. He looks over her shoulder. They have talked about all they can talk about. What he will do, what she will do.
There’s no way we can ever be friends, he says.
They get up. It is finished. He stares over her head. She is not there. He brushes past her and walks the length of the coffee shop.
She waves a sheepish greeting at a boy at another table. She shrugs and uses her body ever so slightly to indicate the ex-boyfriend now moving as fast as he can away from the wreckage. She smiles and trails after him.