Her laugh broke the silence. She had been lost in her thoughts for what seemed like hours, but was only two, maybe three, minutes. She couldn’t believe what she’d just heard. What was he asking her? Disbelief made her face seem unconvinced to him, so he said it again. Her mind raced.
It was only three years ago. Three years. She had been acceptably happy. She was working at the big bookstore a few blocks away, and her new husband was working at the grocery store where they were training him to be the assistant manager. They had a duplex in a little neighborhood of townhouses, and it was small, but they had enough chairs and pots and pans and towels and end tables and all the things you must have to build a home. They had gotten rid of her car, as she could easily walk to the bookstore from home. They talked of having a baby, a little one to love, in the next few years. Just have to get through that assistant manager training. All seemed well.
Then she was alone. She was in shock. How could she go on by herself, so unprepared?
After selling the chairs and pots and pans and towels and end tables to survive the first few months, she was done. Nothing was left. She had to break the lease and leave the little duplex where just a few months ago, she’d thought everything was good. She’d thought.
All the memories of these things, the helpless feeling of needing to go to the Salvation Army to sleep and eat for awhile, of losing her job because she’d been too shattered to be there, of feeling completely alone, swam around in her brain in a non-chronological order…where was she now?
She was in the little coffee shop where they’d let her work. She’d made his coffee for him every morning for weeks (he took it black) before she ever looked out of her eyes, out of herself, and saw him there, another human being, on the other side of the counter. “Oh, hey….sorry, what was your name?” she’d asked. “Joseph,” he’d said. He stared at her for a few seconds, and then a grin spread across his face. “Can I have it?” She looked at her hands. She was still clutching his coffee. Awkward. “Oh, yeah. Sorry.” She smiled as he walked to his table. Human contact. It felt good after so long hiding inside.
Now months had passed, and she’d slowly started telling him what had happened. He couldn’t relate to it, necessarily, having never been married, but he could see the pain in her eyes, and felt compassion for her.
And then, when he could see the pain was rarely present when they talked, and when he thought his heart would explode if he didn’t ask her, he jumped. He asked. That’s where she was. Her laugh broke the silence.