Fiction: Bitter Coffee

March 02, 2010

The Corner Coffeeshop was open for business but its traffic was at a lull. It was too early in the evening for the post-work crowd, too late for the students and AC-enjoying unemployed to be hanging around.

Outside, the sun had gone down but that curious combination of atmospheric density and light's acrobatic bending made it seem like daylight was still around.

Such were his thoughts, where another person would have called it twilight. He grimly thought to himself that she would have referred to Van Gogh's 'Starry Nights' while all along he'd be thinking of the diagrams in the physics textbooks about light refraction.

He was already seated on the bar-stool near the window, his bag on the seat next to his, to save it for her. In front of him was a cappuccino. With deliberate precision, he emptied two sachets of sugar into the cup and tossed the empty packets into the dustbin near the end of the table. She preferred espresso shots but he couldn't stand their acrid taste. But he didn't want another lecture on calorie count either.

Outside, the object of his ruminations had just neared the door and was standing but not entering. Then she squared her shoulders, took a deep breath and walked in.

He saw her from the corner of his eye and put down his coffee mid-sip to receive her kiss. To his surprise, she turned, picked his bag off the seat and sat down with it in her lap. A second later, she seemed to have second thoughts and put it on the table.

Then she turned and said in a rush.

I need to tell you something and I need you to not interrupt. I’m going back to Delhi tomorrow.


She held up her hand.
Don’t say anything. I’m going. The ticket is booked. And it’s one-way.

Her face was set in an immovable mask. She looked beautiful. But unrecognizable. Like a cold, marble statue that was displayed in someone else's house.
When you called me here for coffee, I thought you were trying to rekindle the romance in our relationship.

Her stiff expression didn’t change. She hadn’t even put her bag on the table. He tried again.
I know we’ve been arguing. But we’ve been through worse stuff. It’s…what are we doing?

She wavered and in a slightly watery voice said,
You’re having coffee. I’m leaving.

Come on, you don’t have to do this. Let’s talk about this.

Let's not.

she said. And those were her last words to him. He would think about that often. For such a talkative person, she was leaving him with so little. As if she didn't want to spend another precious minute or word on him.

Across the street, she plugged her earphones into her ears and switched on the iPod. It wasn't serendipitous, the song that came up.

Why she had to go, I don't know, she wouldn't say
I said something wrong, I long for yesterday
Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play.

She'd been listening to the Beatles all evening on her way to the coffeeshop. It helped her relax and focus.

He hadn't said anything wrong. How do you tell someone that they had never said anything right in the first place? How do you explain that after three years? And how do you erase the memory of your own wrong choices?

You don't. You just stop and turn away.

She turned the corner and stopped under the street lamp. She asked herself, shall I reconsider? and turned to look in the direction of the coffeeshop.

It was dark now and the bright lights of The Corner Coffeeshop were attracting their clientele in now. She couldn't see him anymore, there were too many people around. Night had fallen.

Should I?

And in the same breath, the thought crystallized into realisation.

Let me not.

She took a deep breath and walked away.

Coffee was never going to be anything but bitter after this.

IdeaSmith: Woman. Mumbaiker. Firebrand. Stationery collector. Aspiring novelist. Panipuri junkie. Compulsive list-maker. Chocaholic. Free spirit. It's a package deal. Available at www.theideasmithy.com and www.thexxfactor.net.
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