Years of waiting and worry have been captured in styrofoam, etched by fingernails holding onto moments they were likely to forgot. Or, in worse cases, moments they wish that they could. For some reason, it never seems to matter that the liquid inside holds all the appeal of industrial fertiliser, and only offers refreshment in the sense that the next thing consumed will taste like a gourmet orgy in comparison; these are the times when no one complains.
So thinking, he drained his cup.
The last traces of the coffee clung to his tastebuds jealously, staying with him as he crumpled the cup in his hands and realised that he had nowhere to put the debris. With a sigh, he broke them up smaller and put them into his pocket, a souvenir for later that he was sure would leak out a few final reminders of his visit onto his clothing. Not that he would need such a prompt; the after taste and stains were at least only physical. It was with some effort that he reminded himself that, as always, he had chosen to come here.
He had not chosen to be here.
He looked at her through the glass, his eyes mapping her face and following the lines to every destination, every feature that stood as landmark of the woman he knew so well. Those eyes had been a beginning, a glance that could so easily have gone unnoticed. Those lips had moved them forward, with words spoken as softly as they would eventually feel upon his own. Her features and what they meant did not stir anything complex in him, instead remaining as markers for memories that he was so often reliving. He remembered the days they had spent with the rain hammering on the windows, ricocheting like bullets fired from a world outside, beyond their care or concern. In remembering he also had to accept the reality that, outside of his head, it was similar glass that was now keeping them apart.
“How have you been?” he said, or similar words to that effect. He felt a distance when speaking now, both of them covering less ground every time. As much as he tried, the words that came out of his mouth never resonated with what he’d planned in his head. He heard her reply, and offered something else in response; something trivial, no doubt, without any meaningful recognition of what had come before. And so the conversation continued, with each party throwing something else lamely against the glass in an effort to hold back the dead air, the inevitable full stop to a sentence never properly uttered. With each blow that hit, his thoughts unraveled, searching for markers and memories already lived, anything so that he wouldn’t have to grab at the threads fraying in front of him. He wanted desperately to pick them up and tie them together, a driving force that had kept him coming back here so often. But today was as kind as every other day, and even he couldn’t miss when the volley had stopped.
The dead air.
He looked at her face, eyes cast downward as she reached and put a hand against the glass. He moved to mirror her, as he had done a thousand times before, and was caught off guard when the eyes sprang back up to meet him.
“We aren’t happy, are we?”.