I ran into my ex-girlfriend at Starbucks three days ago. I wasn’t looking where I was going.
“Hey,” I said.
We had been engaged for seventy-two hours once, but then we broke up, got back together again, and then we broke up for good.
She said, “Oh, you.”
I said, “Who else?”
“I get it,” she said.
I didn’t know what she was getting, but I wasn’t about to lose my place in line for her. Not for anyone.
“I’m not mad anymore,” She said.
I had heard that one before. I pointed at the barista to let my ex know that it was her turn to order.
The barista was looking at me for some reason, as if it were my fault.
“Will you go?” I said. “People are waiting.”
My ex sighed and shook her head. I knew exactly what she was thinking. Once an asshole = always an asshole.
I really cared for her at one time, is what I kept telling myself.
A moment came when this encounter could have gone any number of ways. This was when my ex had to step aside to wait for her Chi Latte. We both stood a distance apart, quietly retreating to our separate worlds.
But then the barista handed me my coffee and shooed me away with a sideways flick of her wrist. It reminded me why I had come to Starbucks in the first place when I could have brewed my coffee at home.
I stepped in the direction of my ex and when our eyes met instead of saying “Goodbye” or “It was nice to see you” I said, “Damn you look good.” The moment those words crossed my lips I knew that this wasn’t over just yet.
“Do you want to talk?” she said.
“I do,” I said. “Yes, I do.”
There was nothing at all to talk about for we’d said everything there was to say a thousand and one times already. We’d only go round and round again saying a whole lot of nothing like we always did.
But we were both willing to do this, apparently. At least one more time. This is what we had to do for this little encounter to lead where we both needed it to lead. At least for today.
There were no available tables. This is when I should have told her that perhaps we could talk another time. But neither of us wanted that.
“Let’s talk in my car,” I said.
We talked in my car in the Starbucks parking lot for four minutes. That was just enough chatting for us to decide that we needed to continue the conversation at her place.
She got in her car, and I followed right behind. I was afraid to lose her, even though I could have made the drive blindfolded by now.
It was nice to see that sofa of hers again. It was wide and soft and I’d always slept well on it.
My ex was sitting on my lap and pulling her sweater over her head when she told me how she wasn’t going to just have sex with me again.
I said, “It’s not just sex.”
“No, it isn’t, is it?”
“No, it isn’t, but…”
“Let’s not talk about it,” I said.
It was nice that we both agreed on that.
When I was driving home later that evening I felt the road rolling along beneath me. I was sitting low in the seat. Outside my windshield the whole world seemed to have melted into a warm gentle hum. The midnight sky looked purple against the bright stars. Van Morrison played on the radio and I could understand every word that he sang. It was too bad that this would not last more than twenty-four hours. By now, I knew it would go away. Perhaps the moment I woke up in the morning. It wouldn’t trick me this time.
I was right.
When I woke up in the morning I took down my coffee maker and opened the can of Folgers my sister had given me for my birthday. It tasted bitter, but I would learn to enjoy it.
About the author:
Dan Corfield teaches writing at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California. His fiction appears in various literary journals and his poetry can be found in Beside the City of Angels: An Anthology of Long Beach Poetry.