The Centre, Part Three

Day Four of Thirty Days of Writing

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

The next week passed in mild anticipation. I felt socially awkward. I hadn’t really been out of the house or spoken to anyone since the miscarriage had happened and now I was going to meet a stranger for coffee. As I drove to meet Yuni at his house I wondered what was I supposed to talk about? I didn’t know how I would possibly answer all the normal conversation-starter questions. What do you do? I don’t. Are you with someone? I don’t know.

I pictured the conversation dying out quickly. I could of course, tell the truth. But tell the whole story to a complete stranger? That level of vulnerability seemed impossible to achieve.

I pulled up outside Yuni’s house and he was waiting on the front porch. He stubbed out a cigarette. As he walked out through the perfectly trimmed grass to get in my car it seemed refreshing that he was so ready to go.

“Hey.” Bright smile. “Hey.”

“Where would you like to get coffee?” He asked in an overly polite manner.

“Well, I don’t really know St. Louis, I just got back here so maybe you should pick a place?”

“Just got back here?”

Oh, here we go…

“I was traveling around the country for a while. Before that I lived in Colorado and before that I lived in Chicago. I haven’t lived in St. Louis in seven years. So, I don’t really know much about the area anymore.”

“Oh! Well, then… let me think… There’s a place over in Maplewood, by the bar Saratoga. My friend works there. I go play pool around there sometimes.”

“You play pool?” I asked hopefully.

“Yeah, wait, do you play pool?”

“Yeah! I love it. My dad has a table, I grew up playing sometimes but I really started when I lived in Chicago. Would you want to — I mean, we could just skip the coffee and go play pool.”

“To be honest that sounds much better.”

And then it was like a wave broke over the car and we were lifted to the surface and we both took a big breath and then looked at one another, really looked at one another for the first time.

At four o’clock in the afternoon we trampled up the stairs to a bar on the second floor of an old brick building. There was a pool table inside and a bowling alley.

“This is the oldest bowling alley still open west of the Mississippi,” Yuni said, “and it’s on the second floor!”

I smiled. I wasn’t sure I believed that. He had a way of being matter of fact and also overly exuberant all at once. His enthusiasm was contagious.

“What’ll you have to drink?” He asked.

“Umm… I haven’t really been drinking, but I do always love whiskey.”

“Me too! I’m going to get us shots and a beer. Here, set up the table.” He handed me the balls in their little rack.

As I set up the table and went about carefully choosing my stick, I felt like my old self. These were things I liked. I had forgotten there were things I liked in the world. I had grown impartial in my self-imposed isolation. Each choice seemed offered to me as if the universe was asking, Do you still want this?

Did I still want to play pool? Yes.

Did I still want to drink whiskey? Yes.

Did I still want to smoke cigarettes? No. But, Yuni offered me one with a little flourish, and I didn’t want to say no. I wanted to gratefully except this strange encounter, this stranger buying me drinks and playing pool with me.

Yuni played well. I could tell he thought the same of me, even though I was admittedly rusty. Our eyes kept dancing over one another as the game proceeded, and we drank our beers and continued the conversation. The flow of words between us seemed effortless. I felt like a geyser. I felt safe. As if this someone new was giving me a chance to test out a new version of myself — the version I had been hoping to become.