The Things You See Waiting for Coffee by Paul Finnegan14 Jun 2018, Posted by Short Fiction in
Art: City Bird by Nancy Shuler
THE THINGS YOU SEE WAITING FOR COFFEE
Crawling baby to slouching ape to broken-hearted man, he staggered away. The picture of a breakup song. With white text on black background end credits. Raindrops exploded on his clothes in slow motion. Goodbye love, goodbye loneliness. How many we-need-to-talks had the café waiter presided over? How many its-not-you-its-me-hand-held-across-the-table lines had the busboy cleaned up? Wreckage of coffee stained cups. Relationships grow inside a café, behind the glass, under soft yellow lights and beautiful jazz. They die in the tables and chairs on the sidewalk, among the bellows of car horns and dog walkers. Off the rails.
He tumbled down the street with the leaves. Stumbling and wondering and letting the wind push him to his next destination. Maybe he’d end up in a puddle, floating next to a cigarette butt. Maybe he didn’t care where he ended up. The world pushes you along and you go where it takes you. There’s no choice in love. You’re just minding your own business until some other primate comes along to steal your heart. If we could all be French, we could waltz from café to café and chain smoke our way from heartbreak to heartswell and back again. Riding the waves of emotion to end up back home with a delicious pastry and a black cat sitting on a windowsill. Purring like a lover. Feed me. Hold me. Say nothing, darling. You are perfect to me when you crack open a tin of food.
By midnight, he would be drunk. Not a lot of cafes on this street, but a lot of bars and fast food restaurants. Enough to stay out all night and morning, punishing himself. He was not a good drunk, a weeper. Up and down from the floor to the barstool, wailing like an accordion. His loss a public reckoning.
The woman who dumped him? She had evolved beyond him. She had seen it in some tea leaves, weeks before. Inside the same café. This man, this boy, this child lying on the floor in wonder. Blurry vision of a newborn. He couldn’t see beyond himself. He couldn’t move beyond himself. All ego, no future. If she stayed with him, he’d be a bright burning sun for her whole life, blinding her and demanding worship and attention. Her heart would scorch away. He needed an audience, not a lover.
So that morning, they’d drifted towards one another from different sides of the city. Him burning bright, her slowly circling around just the right words until courage reared its head and whispered a soft lie across the table. Her hand on his. Not you. She plucked and played his heartstrings. Me. The crescendo, a cloud crossing the sun. The finale accented by her standing and opening an umbrella to block the rain. Sensible shoes to swaying hips to walking bass lines. Twirling into the wind.
About the author:
Paul Finnegan live just far enough outside Chicago, IL to say he live in Chicago, IL. He is also an expatriate Irishman with a cat and wife. He enjoys experimenting with different literary styles and is currently working on a Master of Arts in Literature at Northwestern University.
Art: City Bird by Nancy Shuler
In the artist’s words:
I enjoy turning my photographs into virtual paintings by adding various filters and techniques to my original shots. I have developed this method of “Photographic Art” over the many years in which I have been a photographer. Each photograph undergoes an unique and creative process to bring out its own specific beauty by emphasizing its distinctive composition and lighting. Each photo is printed on canvas to further increase its depth and intensity. Each canvas photo is sprayed with an acid free acrylic coating to protect its surface and insurer its longevity.