Friday, June 5, 2009

Daily Story 51: Suzanne's Cover

It's morning again, and I feel cold and damp and adrift somehow. For the first time in what feels like forever I'm at the counter of Tom's Restaurant on the corner of Broadway and 112th, and while I tell myself it was just a convenient place to get my morning caffeine some part of me feels like I should be meeting someone here. Instead I can't even seem to get the attention of the guy behind the counter, though he eventually sloshes some lukewarm coffee into my cup.

It's barely halfway full, and I want to say something but he's already distracted by the sight of some woman walking towards the door. She marches in, a gust of November air following her and scattering drops of rain across the floor, and the man puts the coffee pot down so that he can lean over the counter to greet her, telling her how it's always so nice to see her and kissing both of her cheeks while she shakes off her umbrella and gets even more water on the floor.

I feel awkward, like I've walked in on this somehow, and rather than be caught staring or interrupt to point out that my coffee mug isn't nearly filled I reach for the milk and pour some in, trying not to pour enough for a full cup out of habit.

Someone left a section of newspaper on the counter, and I flip through idly. There's a story of some actor named William Holden, who apparently died from falling down in a drunken stupor. Should I know who William Holden was? It doesn't feel right somehow that the only thing I know of this guy is that he drank too much. That he fell down and died alone in his apartment. I try to distract myself from this by flipping through and scanning for any comics. I don't find any.

I'm just starting to read the horoscopes, not bothering to begin with mine, when I look up and see a lady out in the rain facing into Tom's, watching me. For just an instant I think she's you but then I realize that she's not even really watching me. It's nobody I know, just some woman checking herself in her reflection. Completely oblivious to me. For the second time this morning I find myself feeling like a voyeur as I watch her hitching up her skirt to adjust her stockings. I try not to stare, I feel certain that any moment now her eyes will refocus and she'll see me beyond the window. Instead she just gives her stockings another yank; umbrella tilting as she does and allowing the rain to drizzle down into her hair and soak it.

Down the street at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine the bells are ringing. I can almost hear your voice, whispering to me at midnight on the steps, the two of us eating and laughing and looking up at the cathedral looming above. I force myself back to the present, and I see that the woman outside has walked away, heading somewhere. I should be going too - I have a train to catch. I finish my coffee and drop some change on the counter almost telling the man to have a nice day but changing my mind at the last minute.

At the door I hesitate, waiting for something to stop me, to make me stay. My hand is just resting on the door, cold and wet, and somehow I know this rain is going to keep coming all day.