I felt the tears pool up and fall in rivulets down my temples. As I turned to my side I pulled the furry body pillow to my chest and buried my face in it. How could I be so naive?
What would it have taken for me to leave? A raised voice? Physical violence? I had text him the night before saying I knew whatever had gone on between us was over and that I would bring him back his sweater. The beautiful navy blue one from Zara. It had a hole in the armpit that I had sewn for him and stashed in my car until I saw him next. Pulling into the compact parking space and killing the engine of my Mini Cooper I realized it had been days.
When I entered the coffee shop he stood by the counter and it took me a second to recognize him. I mumbled a quick sorry, explaining how I hadn’t recognized him, and stood in line with him pretending to study the selection of drip coffee. A cheery barista with red tassel earrings asked what he wanted and he asked for whichever was the dark roast. She listed off an Eithopiean blend and a Kenyan blend which prompted a hushed joke about how both had to be dark. The laugh that escaped me at his innocent but tasteless quip came off forced at best and I told the barista that I would like the Kenyan blend as well.
As he emptied a sugar packet into murky liquid I suggested we sit outside after a quick glance at the surrounding tables occupied by young people. Each pecked away at Macbooks set atop loose-leaf paper scrawled with notes. Outside, I toyed with the sleeve of my coffee while we exchanged meaningless anecdotes and thinly disguised pleasantries. Finally the conversation veered in the direction I was waiting for. I met his eyes while he dryly explained that anything romantic between us was over and he wanted to see other people without betraying me. Nothing surprising. I earnestly promised that all I wanted was clarity and that I valued his honesty and forthrightness. I thanked him.
After an acceptable amount of unrelated exchanges had ensued I suggested that I get the final gift I had for him and be on my way. As we walked to my car I strode ahead, quickening my pace to retrieve it and bring the drawn out event to an end.
From the driver’s side I scooped up the small drawstring bag and handed it to him urging him that it wasn’t anything big,and definitely wasn’t a romantic gesture. Hoping I was successfully downplaying the thought that had gone into its purchase.
After briefly turning the bag in his hands he reached out to embrace me and drew me in. I muttered into his shoulder that he was a good man and as I drew back I jokingly remarked that if he ever needed me to leave him a good review somewhere I would. The recoil was palpable in his face. He waved it off, suggesting I was making him feel bad. Good, I thought.
He told me he was only a call away if I needed anything and, involuntarily, I replied that I was too.
A funny look came over his face and he said that my perfume was really strong. He didn’t break eye contact, searching for how his covert criticism would affect me.
At a loss for words I simply shrugged.
And with that, I turned and opened the car door while he strode across the parking lot and out of my life.