The Coffee Shop

July 29, 2008
By Kevin Barnes, Elizabethtown, KY

She flashes towards him her familiar crescent moon smile while at the same time raising a deliberate, solitary middle finger. Three things are running through his mind at this moment: the irony of a cup made from “60% post-consumer recycled fiber” that wasn’t allowed to be refilled, the sea foam green of her eyes crashing tumultuous waves at him, and that solitary, deliberate, painful middle finger directed at him across the coffee shop.

Because of the smile, at first glance the gesture would seem playful to anybody who happens a passing glance, but he knows the girl well enough to look at her eyes and not her mouth. That is her weakness, her giveaway. The silent storm raging in flying colors of bubbling green below the furrowed brows tell him all he needs to know about that finger, and the sarcastic smile that goes along with it.

His first instinct is to take up the empty seat across from her. The coffee shop is small and decorated in simplicity. Bare wooden chairs sit beneath bare wooden circular tables big enough for just two occupants, and they are arranged so close together that privacy is non existent. To take up that empty seat would mean leaving his pride in his current, because that pretty mouth of hers can tear to shreds any remaining scrap of it.

He makes a motion with his head to take this outside. She exits from the front, him from the side. There is a phone booth directly in front of the coffee shop and he heads towards its shelter from the outside world, from where anybody could know about this horrible wrong that he has apparently and inadvertently committed. His feet avoid the cracks in the sidewalk.

He enters first; she closes the door behind them. The air is tight and the pressure building seems like more than enough psi to blow up buildings, yet it somehow is contained within the booth. He cuts the tension with a quizzical knife. What’s wrong?
You know damn well what’s wrong.
No, he didn’t. He knew nothing as to why she would act this way out of the blue, out of the peaceful blue sky.
She doesn’t think his tricks are working on her and that they are not very funny. Acting stupid will get him nowhere. She “fills him in” on his weekend with her best friend. She fills him in on how they are too close to let him do something like this to her. She fills him in on how much she loved him before and how close she came to consider doing the stupidest thing of her life. She fills him in that she thought the ring his best friend was now wearing was hers. She was the only one.
His hand is on hers now as she spirals through every emotion he had not expected to come from this. He keeps her on the ground by one finger, her middle finger. She starts to spin still. He anchors himself on knee and weighs her down with a rock tied to her finger in gold. It presses against that painful middle finger. She stops the spiral.
He fills her in that her friend and she have the same ring size and she must have been spinning too fast to see the whole scene. He gave her the ring to perfect the size.
Her sea foam green eyes crash waves of salt water once more in his direction. Below, the crescent moon lights up the night. She does.
She does.
She does.
She does and the bare wooden table that can only occupy two is filled to capacity. Against it presses that middle finger. But it is now anchored down by the rock to its left.

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