Sunday, March 2, 2008

Saying it without words

The young man sips his coffee. His head stares out window, then the other. His eyes squint then relax, then squint again. He sips his coffee again. A woman sits across the table, one hand on her chin as she nods against her cell phone. She puts down the phone and reaches for his hand in a fingertip embrace. She stares at his polo shirt and old slacks and grimaces. He puts on a grin masking a grim foreboding. They chatter and worry, tossing words into the air like rock salt on snowy asphalt.

A gray-bearded man and gray-haired woman walk through the door, their eyes searching. The younger man and woman raise their hands. They smile like the practice piece of an apprentice dollmaker, the teeth too big and pupils even bigger. There are handshakes, hugs, and offers of coffee. The young man leaves and after three quick steps, exhales.

He returns with the wrong order, and the gray-haired woman tightens her lips while saying nothing. The young man speaks too quickly, laughs too often. The young woman clenches her teeth. She says what she came to say. Both couples stare at each other and can hear only the conversations around them. The graying couple nod their heads in resignation. They gray-bearded man reaches for his coat, the older woman grasping his shoulder but half-heartedly. He points his wrinkled finger, and as if in aim, launches his sentences in a cadenced cannon volley. Spit, like marker rounds, accompany his words as his cheeks blush like an overheated barrel.

The young man falters to the chair. He searches within for his own barrel of retort, but instead stammers and repeats. He spills his cup of coffee onto the porcelain floor in frustration. The young woman's eyes blink and fill like an overdrawn mug of cold tea.

The heater belts out warmth through a raised vent, but the air is cool and empty. The older couple flee the scene while onlookers stare in surprise. There will be no police tape, no reporters seeking eyewitnesses. Just a woman in tears and a man who is still looking for his gun.

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