She moves in light, floral flourishes. I imagine that her words drift gently, like fall leaves. She speaks like someone who never wants words to harm - because she knows they can. I listen when she speaks to people. Her order, or a soft hello. I can see her right now, in a dark corner, her hand clasping a warm mug - the steam and the small, reluctant smile. She is the soft, warm center of everything. Tender longing - she is love.
Many hours have passed like this, my eyes flitting like skitter-bugs, trying to take it all in - I want to remember every second. The way she turns the page on a notebook or novel, with grace and reverence. She sees me watching sometimes, smiles; I'm sure my face reddens.
I burn for days.
She is almost always, but not always, alone. The cafe is the same for both of us. A solitary place to sort thoughts and enjoy the smell of coffee, shake the cold and damp or the cold and crisp - hell, shake the world off for a bit. She teases the corners of her hair - one of those absent-minded comforts.
Her smile in these moments ... my heart clutches. I have absurd thoughts. A man will break into the cafe, hell-bent on destruction. Despite the overwhelming evidence of my past, I will vanquish this man. For her. For myself. For the cafe.
I imagine her eyes, anxious, watching a storm build - delicious fantasies. Here, take my umbrella, I insist. Let me call you a cab, we can split the fare. Terrible storm coming...
What I will actually do is nothing. I will continue to sip my coffee slowly, refill it, and watch and run my hands through my hair, gray, though still thick as a child's. I will take my glasses off, wipe the lenses, put them back. Comfort. Little comforts. I will think about when no one had cell phones, and it will make me sad. No reason. Just old, I guess.
I will watch her write. I will watch her read. Sometimes, the exquisite reflection of prose is blinding. She is engrossed, and I stare. God, I stare. Her face shades grave concern, then a chuckle, then she is serious - worried - like the words are orphaned children and she must save them all. And I think, to be made of words! Oh, anything. I would give anything to be made of words and to light her heart, twist the ends of her hair.
There are times I look at her and think: She is a lion. There are times when I look at her and think: She is a Killdeer, the broken wing a ruse. She is leading me. There are times - most of the time - when I think: She is human like me and we could sit at the same table if not for...
It's easy to say. My brother has no problem saying it. Never did. My whole life, I heard the refrain. Just fucking talk to her, what is she ... poisonous? Good-humored, still, it sliced me like a rusty blade, jagged. He didn't understand.
I could talk to her, and she would invite me to sit, and we would talk. I know this. She would even be kind. I know this as well. And - maybe - things would go well. I might be witty. She could tell me of her words and bathe me in the gentle smiles that bloom beneath the soft warmth of her eyes. Or maybe it would be awkward. God, that word. Soul crushing. Every joke would fall flat. I would end up staring, mumbling. I would no longer be able to find solace in the cafe. It would be back to the bar and the brandy and the boredom of that long, black space. No one to look at. No bright spot in the darkness, delighting in the twisting of words.
Something I used to think I could do.
I'll sit here and drink my coffee and be glad I have this. Appreciate it. And I will hope, as always, that some part of her knows that I don't even like coffee. But I won't ask for a thing; she has given me so much, already.