I went to our favorite cafe last week, the one we’re pretty sure is a drug front. But not like, a marijuana front — something more exotic, to match the walls crowded with beautiful paintings of geese in flight. Opium, probably.
Despite everything that had happened between us, the cafe was mostly the same.
The owner was there, wearing his yellow-and-blue checkered shirt, as always. At least, I think he’s the owner. We’ve never actually asked. But if he isn’t, it’s really hard to explain the five other yellow-and-blue shirts hanging in the back room.
He’d hired another set of flighty-looking, 20-something, brunette baristas that gaze unflinchingly into your eyes when they tell you the wireless password. The one that recognized us is gone, but the password is now, inexplicably, “walnut08.”
I wanted to order a mocha, but I couldn’t — partly because the milk puts me straight to sleep, but mostly because it’s your favorite. You order the mocha, I order the cider, and then I have most of your drink, and you laugh when I eat the cinnamon.
I sat down, and I realized it was the first time I was there without you since I could remember. And I thought about what you said in the dark Thanksgiving morning as we listened to the waves. How every road was a different memory, and how driving felt like reliving them. The hurt in your eyes said the rest.
It was pretty full circle, I think, when I slammed into second gear and raced up our mountain and forgot what had happened, forgot everything except how you look in the passenger seat when I drive too fast, like I used to. The air in my car warmed with that static electricity I hadn’t felt for nearly two years, the one that raises the hair on your arms when you’re sitting alone with someone you like very much but you can’t touch her.
The name of the mountain translates to “loneliness,” by the way. Two years of high school Spanish, and I never realized until this week.
Do you remember that December night when you pulled me out of my girlfriend’s house and I walked you to your car? It’s rarely been simple with us — not then, not during the year we spent apart and certainly not now. Loving someone doesn’t mean it’s right to date, I told you, and I meant it.
So maybe it’s selfish when telling me you couldn’t see me anymore hurt like a toothache, unshakeable, only getting worse with time. It’s going to be a while before I work up the courage for an extraction, though. I still hope it won’t come to that.
When I got back to my room in Berkeley, miles away from our cafe and many more miles away from you, I sat down to write you a letter.
The sheet of blank paper lay there, heavy with finality. Maybe it’s the season. The year is drawing to a close, and new beginnings are just over the horizon, but this felt like the end of a chapter.
I wanted to write for pages and pages about how you’d changed me and how I can’t imagine life without you in it, but I could only manage one sentence.
“Thank you,” it said. “For everything.”