She broke his heart on Thursday.
It was at the coffee shop — the same one in which they had their first date after several “get to know you” emails and texts. No one called anyone anymore. It almost felt too intimate to hear a person’s voice. A phone call in the day’s tech-dependent world felt like the first under-the- shirt, boob-feel — in that it signaled that things were getting a bit serious. So, they emailed until they met at the coffee shop 13 months ago.
It was raining that day. She struggled with her hair. Natural sounded so good in theory and fit her black-love sentimentality, but it was days like that one that she missed the freedom of the perm: freedom to spend at least 30 fewer minutes on her hair. But she allowed coconut oil and Jill Scott to soften the kinks in her hair and in her attitude, and she came out with puffy twists that wound up in a bun at the crest of her head. She put on her favorite brass hoop earrings, MAC lipstick (the “Oh Baby” color) and headed out the door to meet him.
He was there when she got there. She saw him immediately: long dreads, goatee, tan jacket, jeans and Timberlands. Fine. He stood up when she walked in, his chair making a stridulous sound when he pushed it back – and hugged her, comfortably. He was comfortable in his skin — you could tell; and she liked that. She liked him.
They both drank organic, Black tea with honey. He added a little almond milk to his and they talked for two hours – easily. Sometimes talking over each other when the conversation weave became misaligned. At those times they would laugh. There is something delightful when you find someone to whom you want to share; with whom you vibe.
They vibed. They vibed that day and at the level—so much that they moved in together four months later. They decided that her place was best because it was closer to the subway and a bit bigger.
But the subway wasn’t really important because besides work, they didn’t go anywhere. They didn’t need anything or anyone but them. Everyone else, everything else felt like a distraction — a fruit fly coming to rest on something sweet. Shoo! Every weekend for lots of weekends they lay on their mattress, splat in the middle of the bedroom floor, with expensive sheets because she didn’t insist on a bedframe but did insist on nice sheets, and made love, talked and fell deeper in love, ate and then fell asleep. That’s all they did. And it was enough.
Then two weeks after they spent a happily tipsy night dropping Snickers bars into the neighborhood kids’ bags – admiring their plastic Walmart costumes, her mother called to talk about Thanksgiving plans. They realized that for the first time, they would be apart. She would head to North Carolina; he to upstate New York.
For the first time, home felt unfamiliar. She looked around and everything was stuffed in it’s same space: every end table and coffee table blanketed with trinkets from 65 years of living. Dad seemed to have not moved from in front of the TV for twenty years, stretched out in his cracked brown pleather recliner with the electrical tape in the seat. Mom, on the other hand, was still in constant movement, particularly now with her four sisters and their families coming to Thanksgiving dinner. She just couldn’t seem to be completely there, with them. She realized that part of her was still with him. This place, this home hadn’t changed; but where home was for her now – had changed.
It was a nice Thanksgiving: a good time to catch up. She told them about him. And they asked questions; but not ones she had ever considered.
“Well, what are his intentions?”
“Do you think you will be married?”
“Is it serious?”
“Why didn’t he propose before moving in?”
“What if he is just using you for a place to stay?”
“Are you two exclusive? I mean did he specifically ask?”
How do you say or explain that it just feels perfect? We had no need to discuss those things.
She knew she couldn’t say those things to her highly accomplished family, who expected rational, not emotional answers. So, she smiled and said that they were taking things slowly.
She went home and saw him, her man, who swept her in his arms like they do in the movies. He missed her as he said over and over again — from the first kiss to the last time they made love that night — and he fell on her spent and with a slight sheen of sweat on him. She lay there—legs still spread–not wanting to wake him—feeling the softness of his dreads on her left cheek and wondered if he was going to marry her one day.
Months passed. He loved her – in the verb sense of love — but those questions on Thanksgiving had planted seeds of thistle that seemed to grow and smother the beauty of the trust they had built before. Until one day, she decided that she couldn’t be a fool and knew what she had to do. She certainly wasn’t getting any younger and couldn’t waste her time with a man who had no intentions of marrying her.
So, she asked him to meet her at the same coffee shop. That day, the sun was beating so brightly that drinking hot tea and coffee seemed ridiculous; but that’s what they ordered because that was their thing—still. He poured a little almond milk into her tea because now she like almond milk in her’s too and smiled at her, “so what’s up ladybug?”
She looked around the shop, an assortment of people—old and young – who talked, read books or tapped away on their computers—and regretted deciding to do it here. Her eyes settled on a framed picture of workers in a Costa Rican Coffee farm handpicking coffee cherries- and then back on him. She fiddled with her necklace, sliding the heart back and forth over the gold chain, and cleared her throat, “this isn’t working for me,” she said in a much stronger voice than she felt or expected.
He leaned in with his head to the side, almost half smiled and said, “huh?”
“Ijustneedmore. Whereisthisgoing?I can’tdothis,” she fired.
He started to speak, but she cut him off before he could, “Look, I’m driving to my parents today for a long weekend. Have your stuff out before I leave.” She got up and quickly walked out of the shop, though her tears were moving even more rapidly than her feet.
He stayed seated — somewhat stunned for about a minute – and then reached and felt to ensure that the ring hadn’t fallen out of his pocket for the hundredth time that day and then poured some almond milk in his tea.