Spoon - A Short Story by Jeanne Poisson
She stirred the spoon through her coffee and in a moment her vision fragmented and before her she could see it all.
Her vision cleared and she welcomed this shift in view. He was now there before her.
He leaned over the wooden table and took the spoon from her hand. And onto the table with a cream smeared silver sticky clouded thud. He took her hand in his as if it was Tutankhamen’s’ gold, tender and gentle as was his custom.
“I did not know that I loved you all those years. I simply didn’t know. You must understand. You must forgive me.”
These were words that she had heard before, in slightly varied arrangement, but the same words nonetheless.
She gingerly took her hand back from him and used it to lift her coffee cup.
Five years! She had waited for him for five whole years, his meandering friendship always waltzing backwards and forwards, side to side, and never becoming anything but an unspoken promise, a flirtation with the future. In waiting she had blinded herself to the world and opportunities before her. She had, in effect, lost five years of her life.
At times like now, she would chew on her words and gaze anywhere but at him. Waiting for him to renew his attestations in a manner that would melt the block of ice she had formulated inside herself.
She would never say much to him. She would instead watch for signs of his sincerity as he spoke. The way his pupils moved when he looked into her eyes and the way he chose his words.
Theirs had been a friendship like no other. She’d responded to his large yearning dark eyes and his penchant for all things sad and funny with a surprising surge of tenderness and acceptance. Before she was fully aware of her heart’s growing inclination she had been taken willingly captive and spent hours in his vaudevillian world.
This time she chose several words from the myriads swirling in her cognitive mind. “I have relegated you to a position from where you cannot impact on my heart. I’m sorry. It was my only option.”
She took another sip of her coffee, carefully suppressing emotion from her face. Not a tear, not a glimmer, not a twitch.
She was the twenty-year-old curly-haired redhead in the crowd the night he played cello for a rock band. He stood to the side of the drummer, partially obscured by the lead guitarist. He in a waistcoat, head tilted to the side as his inward focus brought about beautiful mournful notes of depth from the vintage wooden instrument. The way he appeared with the band reflected his place in life: an outsider, an anachronism, mis-dated, mis-placed. To her he was a turn-of-the-century man.
She had noticed that while he was tragic and miscast, a quiet humour resonated in his large dark dancing eyes.
It was with this humour that he greeted her when a mutual friend introduced them. It was this humour that formed the skeleton of their kindred communication from then on from letters to phone calls to coffee stops to walks in the park and conversations til dawn.
In retrospect, she realised that she had loved him from very early on but hadn’t known it until he took her hand for the first time. It shot through her like a strung out nerve that would never recover from the damage.
And five years passed in the blurred and starry caravan through life that was their friendship. She felt she knew everything about him, saw into him and through him.
Until he told her his secret. The married woman that he had been seeing for six years until now had finally broken his heart.
The married woman that he had romanced all the years that she herself had waited for him to transform their beautiful friendship into a love that would end the world.
Now he sat before her in his daily routine, his face of regret before her and his words in her ear. “I didn’t understand love until I lost you.” “I loved you all along, but I fought my own admiration earnestly.” “The lust of forbidden love skewered my judgment where you were concerned.”
And, like every other time he’d sat before her since the time he broke her heart, he blinked back new tears, his black lashes sweeping them from his eyes like wipers on a car’s windshield.
This time he said as he got up to depart as gracefully as he had arrived, “And I’m sorry I left you the way that I did.”
“But you loved me all along?” She allowed herself to ask. She had asked this question before.
“I have always loved you, and I always will. I will never forgive myself for the state I left you in that day.”
She knew what he meant by these words. She did not want him to go on. She held her head in her hands.
Twilight descended on the world outside the coffee shop. And she cried.
He was gone. And her vision cleared before her. She could now hear the cashier at the register tallying the day’s takings. A kind young girl handed her walking stick to her and cleared her cup and spoon, as cold as ice. The cashier looked up at the frail old woman with misty eyes and a far away look, “There we go Ms. Grace, I’ve called a cab for you, we’ll see you tomorrow. You take care now. It’s seniors’ week next week so we’ll have a special treat over here just for you.”
All she could manage was a nod. She slowly exited the doorway, re-entering her own mundane oblivion.
But not before his final words trailed behind her:
“I’m sorry, Gracey. The last thing I took with me to my grave was the hurt in your face before that car struck me. But you never lost me. I love you."