Coffee Shop Ritual
By Katina Pontikes
The faint smell of jasmine tea vapor floated up to her nose, and she inhaled deeply, enjoying the warm mist. Suddenly she felt self-conscious and looked up. A man she had noticed sitting at the same table yesterday was staring at her intently. His gaze was soft, and attentive. A gentle half-smile came to her lips unbidden and she went back to typing.
The following morning, when she arrived, the man she had seen the day before was now seated at her usual table, his chin pointed toward her expectantly. She understood the lack of subtlety in his move to her table. After ordering tea, she walked directly to him and asked if she might join him. He nodded his head, his straight blond bangs tickling his eyebrows. “I was hoping you would. My name is Dell.” he said, as though he was expecting her. They talked for hours, about things both mundane and intimate. There were interludes with no talking at all, and those lulls were easy, not calling for words or gestures, just existing like waves between them. Their relationship progressed in a blur of warm and sensual encounters. She recalled how he entranced her when he bragged “I know the secret to lovemaking.” She laughed a dismissive “Hah!” But that evening when he removed her shoes and began kissing her feet, one toe at a time, she believed him. And through their intimacy she came to know what it felt to be blissful.
Dell became her husband within three months.The marriage, loving and almost effortless, had suited her from the start. She and Dell rarely fought and understood respect and compromise.For this reason, there were no hard places between them, no emotional bricks left to mark fights unresolved.
They had celebrated their second wedding anniversary the previous Saturday night, and it was at 8:45 on Monday morning when the house phone rang. She noted a doctor’s name on the phone’s Caller ID as she answered. The woman’s voice calmly informed her that Dell had missed his appointment and they were concerned. A callback was requested. She made a note on the notepad, and wondered what was wrong with him.
That evening she asked him about the call before they sat down to dinner. For the first time, she felt him avoid her stare, and noted an evasive tone when he answered that it was just a routine appointment. She knew he was lying, but wasn’t sure how to react to this realization. Less than a week later, she found his body, in a state of peace, no blood, no gore. The note next to him made clear that he had invited death:
My Darling Jessie,
I learned of my condition only two months ago. The dying would have been ugly, painful and drawn out. Our love is too vibrant to leave you with memories that do not reflect what joy we have known. Had I asked your permission, you would have begged me not to take this path, not realizing how devastating the progression to the inevitable death would be. After long and careful thought, I act for me, for you and to preserve what we have had.
All my love,
Years have passed, and Jessie still comes to the coffee shop most mornings. She sits up by the baristas, on a stool, her laptop bag on the seat beside her to discourage anyone from sitting next to her.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com