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The Black Coffee
Now I have never told a story before, nonetheless written one out. So please forgive me for my naivet'. I am just trying to write it as I remember it, with a few bells and whistles'.
The coffee had just finished when he walked in, the bell above the door song as harsh gusts of snow-filled-wind charged into my Diner from the dark twilight zone of a winter night. I had seen him around before, not often, but I always remembered how sad he always looked, how heavy the world seemed to weigh on his shoulders. Before this I truly never knew his name, or had any real interest in it, he always just came in and ate silently and would tell me he was waiting for a call. No one ever called for him. And that night he sat at the counter as usual, by the newspapers he never even looked at.
-Cold out ain't it? he said tossing his jacket on the stool next to the one he sat on as he rubbed his hands together as he settled himself down, before looking back up at me for my answer.
-Always is. I responded avoiding his gaze as I reached for a cup to clean before ask-ing what he wanted.
-Coffee as black as the night. I remember shooting a glance at him for that line, I had never heard anyone ask for coffee like that before.
-One black coffee coming up. I said turning away from him.
All the while I poured the coffee I could just feel him sitting there, there was no one else in the diner, it was about 3 am.
-Thanks. He said as the last drops of the coffee rippled through the darkness. Got any plans for the holidays? He asked warming his hands on the coffee mug. His hands never seemed to get warm.
-Not really anything different, just spending it with the Mrs. Then to be polite I asked him, I could tell by his face he was wanting to be asked. And you?
-Seeing the folks and my sister, nothing big. His eyes screamed 'lie' but I couldn't care enough to read them.
-Well that's always nice getting to see family again. I said turning away from him.
-Yeah I guess, it is nice. At this his eyes looked down. With out family the holidays just get oh so lonely don't you think? This actually got to me.
-Yeah one time when I was working abroad I was all alone for Christmas, that was not too great. Have you had one of those?
-Once... I kind of block it out of my mind, it was that bad. I almost wanted to ask but something about him told me that I would have regretted asking. It is just so lonely, it is suffocating. You walk down these streets that you have been down so many times before with so many people before and now that you are alone it is like their past prescience robs you of any good feelings you could possibly have. Then when you breath you are scared... scared that you will start coughing and never stop... scared that it will last forever, this feeling, this feeling, this loneliness that you can't even place. You can't say why it is there, you can name people you can talk to, but maybe you can't say that they would talk to you....
At this he stopped lost in the twilight zone of his black as night coffee.
-This isn't the first time you have talked to someone about this, is it? I don't know why I said it actually, at the moment I didn't feel anything for him, I think. I never really tried to get into strangers lives, since I come across so many of them. I just get them their coffee and act like I listen. But when it is one man, one lonely man, a man that looks like he shouldn't be lonely, I just let myself walk in. Walk into something I didn't want to walk into then... maybe now I would be different. But no one I have seen looked like this man, this man, something called out about him to help him, like when you see a child with teary eyes, and yet something about him told me to turn away, like when you see a dog walking all zig-zag.
He replied with his head down.
-No, I guess it isn't.
-What do you mean you guess?
-Oh sorry. He raised his head. I guess truthfully I am embarrassed when I talk to people like I am doing now. So I kinda block it out of my mind... I never want to really do this, just it is so lonely, it is so cold, it is just so, so dark outside... you know?
-I can't say I do know. I turned away but then my own conscience weighed down on me as heavily as that man's loneliness. Well why are you so lonely tonight? If you don't mind me asking.
-Oh a harsh break up...
-Uh? His unlit eyes looked at me.
-How long did you and her go out for?
-We were never technically a couple I guess. He said taking in some coffee.
-Well she had someone else. At this I straightened my back. I have considered myself a pretty flexible man in the ways of the world, but when it comes to adultery I am afraid my flexibility stiffens. But still, I know how loneliness felt, I thought. Look I know how it looks, but that is just how it happened. Who can define love? Who has the right?
-Well he sure left it hazy then...
-Just forget about it. He said sitting up and looking around the diner awkwardly until he found something to distract him. The jukebox. He walked over to it and picked a song. An old jazzy number, I forget the name, there are no lyrics, it hadn't played much, it is kinda of depressing, not great for a family diner. Something about jazz. He started. It just is the perfect medium on which to put your own feelings, you know? I had to agree, it's not like a song hasn't touched me. I mean isn't there something that has touched everyone? Even Hitler had an art....
-Yeah, I do.
-Then do you know how it feels, to have them for so long to have them so. At this he searched for a word that he couldn't find. Close.
-I am sorry I can't say I do. But look just tell me what is weighing you down, even if I don't get it, I at least know its good to get it off one's chest.
He looked at me from the jukebox and walked slowly back to his seat, his coffee was almost done.
-Well I met him. He paused, eyes wide open. I mean her, ha its late you know. Well I met her at some country club I can't remember the name of at a tennis game. His eyes paused to look into his past. And I don't know something drew us together, something that distinguished us, something that told us that we weren't alone. Thats all you really need you know, just the knowledge that somewhere out there, maybe even in the Arabian De-sert, someone feels the same. And we fell in love I thought. But as I said God left love's defi-nition hazy, and he just couldn't handle it, he went back to her, back to a life I thought was a lie for him. Maybe this was the lie for him, either way it is life for me. At this my flexibility froze by the ice machines of years of ignorance.
-Wait now look here, I don't think you are so tired to mix up he and she as much as you did there.
All he did was he looked up at me. I swear if I had listened I could have heard his heart beating. His eyes sucked in the light, sucked them into a twilight zone, a zone of night.
-I have bothered you too much with my troubles. Here's your money thanks for the coffee. He got up; I kept my eyes on him. At the door, after the bell rang, he turned back at me and said. It was nice to get it off my chest, I am sorry it bothered you. I did not say a word I just watched him go. Now that I look back on it it seemed he left my diner with even more weight than when he had entered it. I want to say my eyes did not show hate, but I truly do not know. All I do know is that they found a body in the river the next morning, frozen solid by the time they got to it, and he never did come back again.