Coffee Break

“There’s just been a whole lot of dying lately,” Angela said between sips of her large green tea with three ice cubes added (so she could drink it today, she’d told the barista adding, you know how HOT that water is).
“How do you mean,” David asked. He was drinking a large Americano. He didn’t care for this brand of coffee shop but Angela had made the suggestion. “I mean, Anne, sure. That was a shock. That one hit hard. But what do you mean a whole lot?”
“What about Pete?”
“Well, yeah. But he died, what? Four years ago?”
She blew over her top of her tea trying to cool it further. “Has it been four years already? Wow.”
They sat in adjoining arm chairs made from brown faux leather, two of four that were arranged around a gas-fired fireplace. The fake logs were silent behind the glass pane and brass-colored vents. A square metal end table sat between them and held their cups in between gulps. It was late April in suburban Long Island.
“And don’t forget Jim,” Angela added.
“How could I forget Jim? We were roommates for a couple of years back in Boston after school.” David turned his head left to look out the window into the strip-mall parking lot. “He was a good guy. Poor guy. Had a lot of problems. He was already drinking too much back then.” He sipped. “Just so sad.”
“How did he die?” Angela’s eyes followed David’s out to the parking lot. Looking past David’s ear she could see her Volvo wagon sitting in front of the coffee shop. David’s Lexus sedan was farther out in the lot.
“Just, you know, too much. Didn’t wake up one day. He was trying to clean up but I guess it was just too much for too long. His body said enough.” David sipped again. “Poor guy.”
Angela turned back toward the dormant fireplace and crossed her legs the other way. Left over right. “Anyway. Just seems like a lot of our friends, people our age, have been dying. I wonder how our class stacks up to other classes at this point in life. Seems like we’ve had a lot of deaths.”
“Could be.” Dave’s gaze returned indoors as well. He looked up toward the spotlights on the ceiling, to the right toward the coffee bar, beyond to where the hallway led back to the restrooms. “I don’t know.”
“What’s Diane doing today,” Angela asked.
“She’s in the city having lunch with Quinn.” David’s eyes laughed toward Angela. “She’s having a tough time now that he’s a senior.”
“What’s he majoring in?”
“She gonna be all right when you two are empty-nesters?”
“It’s gonna be interesting.”
“What about Thomas? He’s still in Boston, right?”
“Yeah. Living with a bunch of guys in Medford. I guess it’s kinda the hip place nowadays. Who the hell saw that coming? When we were in school, Medford” — David pronounced it “Meh-fuh” — “was a shithole, remember?”
Angela threw her head back and laughed. It was a mostly quiet laugh, but her eyes squinted and her mouth was open in a wide grin.
“Oh yeah. In our day, leaving Cambridge was not something done lightly. How old is Thomas now? Twenty-four?
“Twenty-five. Just turned.” David shook his head.
“How can that be since you and Diane are both twenty-seven,” Angela mocked.
David turned to her and held up his coffee. “Cheers.”
They clinked cups and took a drink.
“What about you, Ang? What’s new with you? Seeing anyone?”
She raised her eyebrows. It was a gesture of hers he’d known for going on thirty years. “Oh, you know.”
“Yeah. Don’t let no moss grow on your stone.” David emphasized the no. “I just want you to be happy.” After a pause, “Whatever happened with that musician? Andy…Angus? What was his name?”
“Close. Andrew. He’s doing well, last I heard. Living in L.A., working for a nonprofit. I don’t know if he’s still playing or not. Every now and then I’ll hear a song of his on the one college station in Baltimore.”
“I liked him.”
“So did I. I still do. Love him. We just…you know.” Angela looked left and saw David was looking outside. “To be honest, I don’t know what it was, maybe it was the songwriter in him or what, but he had a dark side. He could get way down and I just couldn’t afford to get sucked down there too.”
“I get it.” David tipped his head back and held his cup vertically above him. When he returned to level. “I hear ya. Still.” The one word trailed off.
David turned and found Angela looking at him. She had a slight smile on her face and he returned her look with his broad smile beneath his bright eyes. His cheeks shaded a hint of red.
“It’s good to see you, Ang. I miss you. Diane does too.”
“I miss you guys, too.”
“I’m bummed Phil couldn’t make it. He and Deb are celebrating their anniversary. They’re on their way out to Montauk. They go out there this weekend every year.”
Angela nodded, still looking at David. “Yeah, we traded emails. Next time.”
She put her arms on the chair and pushed, rising to her feet. She turned back for her cup on the table and reached for David’s. He was rising. “I got it.”
They went to the cabinet that held cream and sugar, utensils, napkins, and dropped their cups into the circular hole that marked the trash bin. David extended his right arm toward the door and Angela nodded as she stepped past him.
David and Angela hugged as they stood beside her car. “Don’t be a stranger,” he said into her shoulder.
“You too,” she replied. “C’mon down sometime. I have a great place out on the Chesapeake. It’s awesome in the fall. The water’s warm, there’s no one around. It’s great.”
“We’d love to. Diane and I talk about it all the time. Now that we’re not going to Quinn’s games anymore, I’m sure we can get down there.”
They looked into each other’s eyes, and their smiles engulfed their entire faces and all the years they’d known each other. Their smiles, each familiar to the other and a comfort to the other, bridged the space between them.
A pause, and David took a step back. Angela opened her door and got in. She backed her Volvo out and waved to David, who had begun walking toward his own car. Angela steered toward the highway, heading west.

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