Stormy Cafe Blues

We had to meet today? The tempest outside was of biblical proportions. Steam rising off the sidewalks. The beginning of hurricane season. I shook off my umbrella and recomposed myself as I scanned the café for my friend.

Them that’s got shall get, them that’s not shall lose. So the Bible said, and it still is news…

We found sanctuary in our little West Village café. Billie Holliday cooing from the speakers. The sounds of stirring spoons and whispered laughs mixed with the smells of freshly brewed coffee and eggs frying in butter. My friend searched my face before she pulled me in for a fierce embrace that lingered just a bit too long. Was she sick? In trouble? Did she need-

Money, you’ve got lots of friends, crowding ‘round the door. When you’re gone and spending ends, they don’t come no more…

She looked well. We exchanged pleasantries, but my mind wandered back to my unmade sheets still sweet with sweat. My husband had come home after a long year a part, and we were trying to start a family.

Rich relations give, crust of bread and such, you can help yourself, but don’t take too much…

We ordered steaming cups of black coffee despite the heat. And hearty breakfasts despite the late morning hour. She seemed preoccupied, nervous even. We had become fast friends over the past year, but she had never met my husband. Why then was she prodding me to talk about him? What precipice was she leading me to?

I acquiesced, and told her of our plans. With a deep inhale she looked towards the storm still whirling outside. With an exhale she clasped her hands and decided. The silver scarab ring she never was without clinked the table, ringing out like the chime of a Tibetan singing bowl, and in her apologetic eyes I suddenly saw why she’d brought me here.

Yes, the strong gets more, while the weak ones fade…

I needed irrefutable proof, so she handed me her phone. And there in that West Village café, I saw the truth scroll past my eyes: a betrayal as old as time, delivered in the most contemporary of fashions.

I saw a life in perfectly filtered pictures parallel to my own; a virtual world in which I was strangely absent. Where was I? Who was she? Who was that man I thought I knew?

As I scrolled, my eyes welled up, and the images blurred as though I were looking at them through the panes of the rain-soaked window we were sitting next to. Through these distortions, I saw the little world I had constructed begin to dissolve. Through the golden yellow yoke on my plate, I saw the children we would no longer have. And then I saw the café begin to spin.

My friend paid the check and swooped me in her arms as Lady Day sang on. She ushered me out to the stormy streets and we clutched our useless umbrellas; laugh/crying at the most poetic of New York rainstorms. I left her and headed east to the river. I was soaked, but couldn’t gauge where my tears ended and the sky’s began. It would be many months before I resolved to do what in my heart, that day, I already knew had to be done.

Mama may have, Papa may have, but God bless the Child that’s got his own, that’s got his own.