Don’t go, I plead wordlessly. But I can taste the good-bye on his lipsMarie Lu, Prodigy
The Sad Café VII
A love story by Holly Hunter and Hyperion Sturm
Common Ground By Holly Hunter The heart can fall like a suicide spiral down like the shade of midnight deserts cold as petals on an icy lake a flowing grave of dreams an echo chamber of pain Let my tongue flirt like a butterfly among wildflowers rather than polish my scars debride my wounds.
From my window, a sliver of the moon casts a haze over the water. I can hear the rush of soft waves. Those creatures beneath the depths, do they sleep, dream? If parted, do they grieve?
Down the street, I can see the lights from an all-night store. A man waits behind the counter. Cautiously he slips his hand under his jacket and takes a long swig from a bottle. A group of young thugs gathers outside the storefront. I imagine them harming the storekeeper.
Distracted by the young whore taking shelter in a doorway, they laugh and whisper. Oblivious to her vulnerability, she sleeps as though she has never heard of birds of prey that swoop down with jagged talons, hungry for butchery. I watch intently in case I need to call out a warning but losing interest; they disappear into the dark.
Maybe nothing is real. Perhaps everything I see and hear is an illusion. I lose focus on the outside world, and the burn of you stings relentlessly just below the surface. I want to sleep forever, not give a damn about you.
The busy calendar of appointments and meetings no longer held David’s interest. He shut the book and rang up the executive secretary and told her to take all of his calls. He hadn’t been able to shake the unease he felt after his last few visits with Renate. She seemed to be drifting away from him, not accepting any of his ideas to keep them together. The last time he took her to the airport, she seemed a thousand miles away. How long had it been, four months?
Four Months Earlier
David stared out over the steering wheel through the dew-covered windshield down the narrow street. The old sandstone buildings on both sides rose straight up like the high walls of some labyrinth, swallowing his thoughts and forcing the ache in his chest to hang closer to his heart. The door opened, and Renate slid in and lightly perched in the seat next to David.
She sat silently in the car, hands folded in her lap and head down as if in prayer. David looked over as visions of their time together twisted through his mind. Now, all he saw was Renate looking down at the floor.
A tear fell from her long lashes and skipped down the front of her dress, disappearing in a small ring in her dress’s soft pastels. She forced a smile and whispered, “Let’s go.”
They wound their way down the cobblestones to the main avenue, mutual thoughts resounding in their minds like drops of water in a well. The silence between David and Renate was a chasm with no bridge across. Their reflective mood shattered as the car accelerated through traffic.
“Hey, babe. I was just thinking; I’m coming up on ten years with my Department of State job. I can retire early, draw a small pension, and be with you in London if you take the trauma center job.”
“Please don’t do that, David,” Renate said
“Why not? We can finally be together full time.” David replied.
“Then I have to look at you every day, thinking you gave up your career for me, and I’ll have so little downtime to spend with you until I get a more senior position. Renate’s tone was agitated, on the verge of anger. What fun will I be then? You’ll hate me for doing that to you.”
Anger, frustration, fear, another heartbreak; it all came pouring out finally. David knew not to push the point. He would never ask Renate to give up her chances at a career for the same reasons. Perhaps she was right.
“I’m sorry. Forgive me. I love you, and I can’t think straight. It’s these goodbyes. I always fear it’s the last one.” David said, his voice tinged with surrender.
Renate reached across the seat and held his hand to reassure him. “I love you more, she teased, hoping to lighten their mood. She didn’t want to spoil their last minutes together. David, we just need the time to get our lives established, and then we can decide what is best for both of us. Besides, I much prefer you spoiling me to becoming a wife with poopy kids, a dog, and a closet full of mom jeans.”
Realization spread across David’s face as the vision of their last goodbye faded, and his office came back into stark focus. So, that was it. His desire for her, his push for them to marry seemed like the typical man seeking a family Renate wasn’t ready to accept. The exhale of air from David’s lungs was the exhaust of all his misguided dreams turning to hot ash.
We promised to meet again on our anniversary at the Café. I’ll back away until then and give her time to decide what she wants to do, and then, if she still wants me, we’ll work it out together.
I need to get some air. David walked past the secretary and told her he would be out for the rest of the day. She raised her eyebrows and gave David a sideways glance. Her knowing look stopped David for a moment. “Come with me, Gabrielle. I know a nice Café where we can discuss the affairs of the State.”
“You mean affairs of the heart, don’t you? One moment, I’ll get my things,” she said.
This story is dedicated to The House of Heart and Holly Rene Hunter without whom this story would not be possible. The Sad Café is captured in several blog posts and poems by Holly and I was captivated from the beginning until finally Holly and I struck up a conversation and the idea to collaborate on an expanded version was born. To remain true to House of Heart, Holly graciously allowed me free reign to use her poetry and short stories as a basis for the seven short chapters. I sewed together snippets from other stories of mine as well, finding the common theme between these diverse writings that span several years. A poignant romance lasting ten years, A Sad Café, captures well how the tempest of love is the teaching of pain where in we find the true value of love that lasts through all the seasons of our lives. To love fully with an open heart accepting all the risks and weathering those risks is the agony of ecstasy.