Creative Nonfiction Contributor:
The Last Time
The last time I stood behind you we were single file in line with strangers. Gone were the days this same position would find us in our kitchen with my arms wrapped around your waist, my chin resting on your shoulder, head snuggled into your neck. Instead we stood in near silence acting like we barely knew each other—although at that point I guess that wasn’t far from the truth. You were trying to decide on which form to take your caffeine in; I was focusing intently on the same menu I had memorized months ago, thinking I’d order something other than my usual, anything to keep my eyes off of you. You settled on a caramel latte, I went with a plain drip coffee lightened up with a little cream, a little sugar.
I drink my coffee black now, did you know that? I can just imagine your face scrunching up in disgust as you find out this new fact about me. You mean no French Vanilla creamer? Cross it off the grocery list!
The last time I walked next to you was away from that counter and outside. My right hand felt useless and restless—it’s never known unemployment dangling next to yours before. We walked awkwardly side by side for a few steps until I pulled ahead and held the door open, letting you pass through. You didn’t deserve my courtesy, but like a lot of things you didn’t deserve from me, I gladly gave it to you anyway. That’s one thing about me that hasn’t changed. Chivalry isn’t always dead, darling.
My darling, my baby, my love…you know, I’ve never been one for terms of endearment. It’s their casual use I despise—everyone’s an “oh honey” or a “babe” when they’re searching for something fleeting. Let me own you just for a moment.Except for you, you were different, you got through. You made me believe we weren’t fleeting, that you wouldn’t flee. What an odd sound “Bridget” is coming from your lips now.
The last time I sat across from you I was lucky enough to have the sun shining. It gave me an excuse to keep my sunglasses on, a shield used to hide the rogue tears that kept escaping as I tried with all my might to keep myself composed. We sat facing each other at a metal café table, partly shaded by an oversized umbrella, sipping out of white paper cups—just like we’ve done every other weekend. Except this time my feet were wrapped uncomfortably around the legs of my chair instead of dancing flirtatiously with yours. We were awkwardly making small talk about how moving away was the right decision for me in that moment. It was, of course it was. It was the right decision for both of us. But who would I drink coffee with in the big city?
How did I love coffee with thee? Let me count the ways…the little green pot brewed in your townhouse before we went off to our separate early morning classes…the cappuccinos with the java jackets that you would wax poetic on and hand to me nonchalantly…the peppermint creamer you’d surprise me with at the beginning of each Christmas season…the childish jungle animal mugs I’d wake up early on Saturday mornings to fill and bring back to bed. I don’t know if you still use that tiny coffeepot, but your words are tucked away in a box on the top shelf of my closet, the mugs in my cupboard still used daily.
The last time I held you I didn’t think I’d be able to let go. When once we felt safe in each other’s arms, now it was as if we would snap each other in two. We held each other in a bony embrace—the briefest, daintiest amount of physical contact we’ve ever shared. What happened to us? We put ourselves and each other through hell. And for what? So we could come out stronger on the other end? I was a mess for longer than I care to admit, but I will say that it did make me stronger, so strong that nobody gets in anymore.
They say that once a writer loves you, you can never really be forgotten. I wish like hell that wasn’t the truest thing I’ve ever heard. You made it impossible to forget every first, every in-between, and every last—so much so that the last time is never really the last time.
Featured on Pithead Chapel, July 2014