by Max Andrew Dubinsky
She finds me in the coffee shop.
She sits without invitation.
We’ve been doing this dance for months. She hasn’t missed a step.
I pretend to care about the surrendered Sunday paper at the table to my right, now her left, and she wants to know what I’m looking at. It’s always this way when I’m not looking at her.
The coffee’s cold by now. I drink anyway.
She won’t order anything. She never does. She’s knows she won’t be around long enough to enjoy it.
An unlit cigarette between my lips, she offers me a light. I kindly oblige. “I want an answer by the time you finish that,” she dutifully instructs. I’ve got no more answers, only questions.
How can she look at me, I want to know. So I say, “I look at you and I only see her.”
“Don’t call it a her.”
A piece of us is missing. Something we’ll never get back. I ran through the hallways screaming, “Don’t do this!”
I screamed, “Stop!”
Screamed, “You’re not the only one this is about!”
Three orderlies and an armed security card. That’s what it took to stop me. Has she forgotten already? I want to ask, but I just drag on smoke and ash instead.
Afterwards, when the whole debacle finally settled, we held each other on the steps out front and cried until our insides dried, until we were so tired we couldn’t walk; our throats so sore we couldn’t speak for weeks.
She moved out three days later, and I subsequently lost the two people I loved most in life.
She takes my hand in hers, shows me her teeth, her lips, her tongue.
I’ve never felt so alone in such a loud, crowded world.
“We can do this,” she says. “I can’t do this without you.”
We were young, and in love, and now she just needs someone to hate. You martyr. You mastermind.
I blow smoke and tell her I’d have died instead. Had I known it was going to be like this.
“Like what?” she asks.
Like everything I ever loved is hanging by a rope that hurts to hold. So I let go.
“How do you think I feel?” she wants to know. “Why do you think I’m here?”
“What happens if it happens again?” I ask, drawing on the last of the ambers inches from my lips. “Would you keep…it?”
“I guess we’ll need a miracle to survive this,” she says.
I tell her I don’t believe in miracles. I stub the butt of my smoke into the ashtray, and smear stray ashes across the table with the palm of my hand.