Jeanie’s

There was breakfast in my house. Half a loaf of bread, butter, cheese, some croissants, definitely hot chocolate but I needed to get out. I had been crouched over the Mac for the last three days, having miniature panic attacks every few hours as my fingers danced across the keyboard. The ideas were flowing but the deadline loomed like a grotesque shadow over my shoulder. All left me with enough tension to break a few bones.
It felt the same way every time.
That feeling of escape haunted me. Enough that I dragged on my uggs and largest sweater and pulled my bag from under the heap of books as I hurried out of the door. Had I been less harried I would have bathed and actually attempted to comb my hair. But I did not care this morning. I knew that my hat would hide enough and there were no plans to engage long with another human being. I just wanted food and fresh air. The deadline would have to keep its own company at the flat.
Jeanie’s is a large Organic cafe that takes up most of the corner of Raymond Street. It’s the go to for students and mothers and babies and all who wanted the illusion of a healthy lifestyle. I liked their hot chocolate and vegan cinnamon cake. No where close to breakfast food yes, but a close cousin to comfort.
I ordered and took one of the few tables outside the door. It gave you enough fresh air and sidewalk action to last a lifetime and it was my idea of bliss. People watching and feeling the spring sunshine through the seasonal chill was the injection of life I needed. I tucked my leg underneath me and leaned back in Jeanie’s’ mental chair. It didn’t take long for my order to arrive and I smiled at the waitress like she had brought me a million dollar cheque. Her response was less friendly but it didn’t bother me. I would have reacted the same way to the smiley lady in the green sweater.
I wrapped my fingers around the steaming mug and ignored the burn on my fingers. I knew it would soon go away. I trained my eyes on the 10 am people traffic and the cars that lulled by. Raymond Street is parallel to the main road so avoids the bigger cars and buses but gave people like me enough to stare at and wonder.
My head wanted to think about the work. It wanted to decide what the next paragraph was going to be. My head wanted to dissect Kieran’s words the night before. It wanted to berate me for not looking in the mirror before I rushed out the house. It wanted to keep the tension going. But I was in revolt. I needed to not be part of that madness for a moment. My life was on pause at Jeanie’s.
It was probably why I did not see his approach. Me on pause and the lady walking by with the navy blue pumps was enough of a distraction until he said my name.
I jumped, as I would have with anyone at the moment but when our eyes met, I heard my heart clearly beating in my ears.
“Wow.” I saw his mouth forming the words but actually hear him saying it.
“You don’t remember me?”
My brain cleared the clutter that was my life and replaced it with a memory. One that was as clear as his face looking down at me.
“It’s Junior. It hasn’t been that long since Kings Rochelle.”
He was the same. Tall, slender, a slight scar on his chin and his eyes still a dark brown. The memory rushing back slammed into my consciousness and made the chocolate taste bitter on my tongue.
“I, um, I.” The mug was already on the table and my hand was reaching for my bag on the chair beside me.
His smile was fading.
“What’s wrong?”
“I, I have to go.”
“You really don’t remember me?” he asked as I manoeuvred around the small table, keeping my distance from where he stood.
“I know who you are James.” The words came out of me calmly masking the absolute meltdown that was occurring internally.
“What’s wrong then? Did I do something?”
I had already started to walk away.
The instinct was to look back. I was afraid he would follow me but I knew, I knew, he would not.
I walked with no destination. I didn’t cry, didn’t call anyone, and did not return to my flat. I just walked until my legs made a different decision and I leaned against the wall of a storage building I could not recognise.
I remembered him. Though time had fooled me into believing that I forgot. The casual way he had said my name and the smile as he did it told me that he too had forgotten. Then again there was probably nothing for him to remember. That thin line between pleasure and pain would be invisible.
The warmth of the spring time sun still beat its rays, but it no longer held any bliss for me.
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