Poetic Justice: A Short Story
I left the newspaper lying there on the coffee shop table, the only indication that anyone had sat at the table in the past few hours. The shop had been unoccupied when I left; even the employees were in the back of the store, taking inventory or taking a nap. Whatever the reason for their absence, lack of coffee shop personnel was of little importance to me today.
I hadn't planned on running off; I have always had strong scruples, scruples that say running away from your fears is wrong and a sign of great cowardice. I would like to believe, however, that my act of desertion was a display of noble cowardice. I ran away for a good reason.
I have been stood up before, and I know how terrible the feeling of knowing that someone doesn't care enough to give you the time of day. He wouldn't have cared though. I showed great noble cowardice by leaving him to find an empty coffee shop, save for the old newspaper from last week that I had been using to distract myself from the nerves at my impending meeting with him.
What would you have done?
I have no idea why we decided to meet after all this time anyway. I haven't seen or heard from him in years, not even one phone call. Suddenly he takes it into his head that we need to meet in an obscure coffee shop downtown and "talk." I don't know why I agreed to the request. Maybe he really wanted to pick up an old friendship. Perhaps he wanted to mend the canyon he dug between us. Or he could be wanting to gloat about how his new life has turned out, without me. "Our relationship was never worth pursuing," he might add as an afterthought.
I will never know, for ten minutes before his arrival, I ran. It's funny, really. He ran away from me years ago, and now I'm doing the same to him. Poetic injustice. Noble cowardice. Whatever you want to call it, the fact remains the same: I ran. I will never know the true reason why he wanted to see me again, when I thought he had forgotten about me.
I turned back a few blocks ago, just to take a peek in the plated glass window of the coffee shop and find out if he kept the meeting. He did. He was sitting at the table, the newspaper lying there, black, white, and limp, ignored. Just like I had been for the past several years since he left. His face was buried in his hands and I almost felt sorry for him. I turned on my heel and walked toward home.
Maybe I should have kept our meeting. Maybe I shouldn't have left. Who knows, if I hadn't left him at that lone table in the coffee shop, we might have been able to work things out. Then again, if he hadn't left so many years ago, we wouldn't be in this situation. If he hadn't left, I wouldn't have had to run away from my father like he ran away from me. But I suppose he got what he deserved.
So why do I feel so empty?