She checked her powder and lip gloss in the rearview mirror, smiling despite herself when she caught a reflected glimpse of her hot pink and black zebra striped seat covers. “Wonderfully tacky and obnoxious, just like you babe!” her husband had said about them on more than one occasion. This thought made her smile, too. She took a deep breath, repositioned her rearview mirror, and stepped out of the car. Walking across the coffee shop parking lot her new $300 phone chimed a pretty note, alerting her of a text.
“Oh thank Gods” she mumbled to herself, fishing the phone out of her red patent leather Lux De Ville handbag and setting it to silent. She then shoved the phone to the bottom of the dark depths of her purse, careful to cover it with the Gaiman novel she started reading last night before bed. No need for him to see the phone….
Walking into the coffee shop, she scanned the room quickly. He sat at a far table, hunched over and seemingly engrossed in a tiny electronic device. She headed his direction and when he saw her he stood, stretching his lengthy arms out for a hug.
“Hey sis good to see you!” he said with false excitement, his eyes darting every direction except her face.
“Where’s Leann?” she demanded, accusation loaded in every syllable of the inquiry.
“Huh? Oh, I took her home. Couldn’t deal.” he rubbed his face and shifted his weight back and forth from left foot to right foot, then back again.
“I really wanted to see her. I miss her Dave.” he had lured her to the meeting with promises of bringing his only daughter, and her only Goddess-Daughter, with him. She wasn’t surprised Nola wasn’t there, but she was disappointed.
He didn’t respond, just stood there, shifting his weight. And his eyes. She sighed.
“What do you want to drink?” she asked, noticing he had nothing in front of him on the table.
“Huh? Oh, nothing. See this? I can’t drink shit. Or eat. Fucking sucks.” he pointed to the bottom right side of his face, which was horribly swollen and red. She tried to mask her revolted shudder by taking off her thick black winter coat, and tossing it on the chair opposite his. He sat back down and immediately became engrossed in his electronic device, which upon closer inspection was an old slide phone with a shattered display.
She adjusted her pinstripe pant suit and walked toward the counter, high heels clicking a quick cadence that almost matched her accelerated heart rate.
She ordered her drink, chatted with the cute barista with flesh tunnels and side swept hair, then returned to their table.
He launched into the tired old litany of talking points that he always made sure to hit upon: he wasn’t using Boy this month, he thought he was only going to have to serve six months this time, Nola was doing great, everything was finefinefinefinefine.
But it wasn’t.
It never was with him.
He made sure to mention that he was living in his car, that his parent’s had kicked him out. Again. He also mentioned, several times, that he had a script for antibiotics. But no way to pay for them.
She listened to most of what he was saying, but more than listening, she looked. This was a different person sitting across from her at the tiny coffee shop. This wasn’t the David that played a bass solo so heavy it could make your ear drums vibrate. Nor the David that would sit up with you all night, sharing a fifth of cheap whiskey then wrestling and laughing and moving furniture at 4 in the morning for no damn reason at all. This wasn’t the Dave that would sing every.fucking.wurd to Hank III’s Straight to Hell album at the top of his lungs with her. And it definitely wasn’t the David that she had for so many years called brother.
This was a sad, filthy, lonely, broken man. Someone she had never met before. His clothes were wrinkled and stained. His beard was overgrown and uneven. His teeth were broken and greenish gray. His hands had an odd coloring about them, as if he had recently laid a tar rooftop. The stench emanating from him was a foul mixture of rotten trash and desperation. She couldn’t quite tell what his eyes looked like, because he would never look at her face.
His monologue continued. He talked about Boy and what a grip He had on his life. How he was sure he would be thinking about Boy the day he died. He said he wanted to go back to jail. That he was SURE he would get clean there. This time. How the first week of detox was the worst. How he had caught Hep C from sharing needles and the junkies he ran with called it The Little Aids.
And her brain shut out his empty wurds. She smiled and nodded, and allowed a gentle buzzing noise to fill her up. She had to carry herself away from here any way she could. Being with him and his endless talk of Boy made her nauseous.
She stood up and gathered her coat and hand bag. He jumped up and scurried to the door.
She had one thing to say and was relatively sure it was inappropriate. Since when did that ever stop her?
“David, I want you to know I’m sorry.”
“Huh? Oh, what?” he said, confused.
“I’m sorry that I haven’t contacted you all this time. I want you to know that I love you, WE love you. We love you very much.” she thought about the program at their wedding. Groomsman in Absentia, it had said next to David’s name. He was in prison then, too.
“We love you and we’re sorry things are like this for you. I had to step back from you because it hurt me too much to see you, to talk to you. It’s too painful for me Dave. I worry about you and it’s not a healthy situation for me to be in.”
“Huh? Oh, uhm. Ok yea. Dude can I have a cigarette?” he said, scratching his arms and shifting from foot to foot.
“I quit smoking.” she said aloud. Over a year ago, she said to herself.
“Huh? Oh, uhm ok. I gotta get outta here sis. Oh, uhm. Can I have 17 dollars for a late birthday present? I gotta get my script filled before court tomorrow.” he was rubbing his face again and his eyes were darting around faster than ever.
“Sure Dave.” she said, handing him a 20.
His eyes light up and for a second, it was him again. The kid she knew and had grown so attached to all those years ago, a lifetime ago. Then he was headed toward a car. Mumbling something to himself, or perhaps even to her.
She stood there looking after him for a moment, but saw only a ghost. The tears started in her chest and welled up as a lump in her throat then began streaming from her eyes.
Her coffee with Boy and David was officially over.