Tammie Giziki, Detroit

I planned to meet up with her, even though everything told me not to. I knew exactly how it would all go. It was routine, whether she knew that or not, it was. We always met up at this coffee shop that was equally as far away from her flat as mine was. I would walk there, even if it were raining. She would drive, even if it were the most perfect summer day. I would be on time, she would not be. She was never on time even on the most urgent days, when she would call in hysterics; she would still show up after me. I walking, her driving. Knowing all of this I still headed out of my upper flat, grabbing my coat and my scarf. I slowly walked down my stairs and felt the draft from outside and contemplated going back up to grab my gloves too. This October decided to give a couple of its days to winter, leaving us with the consequence. After a short pause, I went back up. It did not matter. I knew I had the extra time. I'd end up beating her there anyway.

The walk seemed to take a little longer due to the chilling winds, but I was in one of those moods where nothing really mattered to me. I was tired of worrying about every step I took, so I just took less of them. Why was I wasting my time going to hear her babble? I hardly listened to her words anymore, well maybe every third time we met. She repeated herself quite often adding the dramatic details that I somehow missed and now needed to desperately know. I guess I just went to stare at her less than beautiful face. Most people who met her thought she was cute, but sometimes faces just dissolve into shapes. I only could see her shapes and they didn't really complement one another. I suppose that at a quick glance she might appear cute. Her eyes would bulge out a bit and her nostrils reacted to each breath when she talked. So they ended up doing something not quite as disgusting as flaring nostrils, but after staring at them for the length of her monologue, it gave me the same "please let me look away" feeling. Her voice was even irritating after a while. One day I noticed that she slightly slurred her words and ever since then that is all I could hear. So I tried to remind myself why I would drop everything, not that I had much to drop, but I would go and see her. I would buy her medium cappuccino with a caramel shot and myself a cup of black and sit and wait for her. Watching the steam leave her cup and the milky foam settle a little lower than it was originally, the cup waiting anxiously for her lips.

Today was no different. I entered the coffee shop, ordered our drinks, thought about possibly buying her a cappuccino with a mint shot, instead of her normal caramel one, just to throw her off. That was the mood I was in. I took a seat in the back corner, where there were tiny armchairs with extra cushions and a tiny round table with mosaic tiles in the formation of a bird. The files around the edge spelled out dream, fly, believe. I hated little tiny mosaic tables with things written on them like dream, fly, and believe. Anything of the nature made me feel a little uneasy. So I reached over for a local newsmagazine, that was at the empty table next to me and opened it up to cover the table. It was then when the waitress came with my two coffees; she looked around to see who the other coffee was for. She even glanced at the chair across from me for any sign of another human being, then asked if both coffees were for me. I nodded with very little enthusiasm and an expression that I felt bad about giving her right after I gave it. She put her head down, said sorry, and waited a half a second, just long enough for me to explain to her that someone would be joining me. Only I didn't say anything. I didn't have the energy. So she walked away feeling embarrassed and probably a little bad. I just didn't feel like answering any questions that I really didn't need to answer.

I started reading the newsmagazine that wasn't covered up by our coffee mugs, when I heard the door open. I looked up and saw that it was Brianna. I guess it had been a while since our last meeting because her hair seemed quite a bit longer, she looked smaller than I remembered her, but also a little cuter. She wearing a very thin coat and was shivering a little while she scoped out the shop, I suppose looking for me. I watched her walk over to the other side. The coffee shop had a wall dividing it, so there were two sides that were decorated in different color schemes, my side was the blue and green. The side that Brianna was walking around was red and orange. I thought I should have waved my hand to make myself visible when she walked in, but I didn't. She walked over to the counter to order drinks I suppose. I always wondered if she ever beat me here if she would buy my coffee and there she was all prepared to order. I was already half done with my coffee and another one didn't sound like a bad idea, but I figured that I could wait for the waitress to come back and refill my cup, so I yelled out her name and waved my hand. She turned around and gave me a smile. One that kind made me feel like she was really glad to see, or maybe she was just relieved that she in fact wouldn't have to pay for coffee once again.

Brianna walked over like she always walked, light on her feet and with slight confidence. She was never overly confident, just over-dramatic. For some reason I felt myself perk up as she neared. She reached over to my side to give me a hug, and said in her high pitched voice, "hey baby doll, Andrew," and sat down. She almost took her coat off but decided to leave it on for a bit so she could warm up. She held up her cup and thanked me while taking a sip. I just watched her, kind of hating her. Brianna always called me baby doll. I once loved it, but now didn't, however I never told her to stop so I guess she still believed that I liked it. I guess I was staring at her strangely because her eyes bulged out and she asked what's up? I said nothing was and that I was waiting on finding out that very same question about her. She half smirked and then sighed. I could tell I was in for it. She had a story. One that she couldn't wait to tell. What would it be this time? I used to listen to her ramble about her longtime boyfriend. I guess I didn't mind that as much because I knew what to expect. I knew their situation and I met her when they were already one year into their relationship. Our conversations were different because he was automatically part of them because shortly after I asked her how she was doing, I would ask about him, and then them. Sometimes she would just say fine and we could talk about anything. I really can't recall what it was we talked about, but I never stared at her nostrils, or watched her face turn into barely recognizable shapes that seemingly did not complement each other. It was toward the end of their relationship that our meetings became solely about her and her life and her boys. They broke up a little less than two years ago and their relationship was bad for about one year, after she cheated on him. Well, here I was. No one put a gun to my head. I was here to listen or not to listen. I always did try to digest her words, but for some reason they did less than interest me.

"What is it this time?" I accidentally ask out loud.

She stops. She stares. Eyes bulge.

Response, I read her face, for any sign of one.

No. We pause.

"What?" she asks. " I am trying to tell you. You're not even listening, are you? Fine. We can just drink coffee. Unless you have anything to talk about?"

No, I didn't. The only things I could think to share she already knew. I looked at her; she was sipping, so I didn't have to see her eyes. Brianna was mad. She started talking and I wasn't listening. So what I said earlier about always trying to digest her first words, needs adjusting, not always, how about usually. I usually tried. I tuned in my ears and allowed my eyes to focus with them, on the tiny brown haired girl before me. Sipping her caramel cappuccino. She was giving me the silent treatment as punishment? I took my last sip of coffee. The waitress passed too quickly for me to grab her attention. I sat back and decided not to worry about the coffee.

Brianna put her coffee down, grabbed my cup and before I could say anything, took it to the counter and got me my free refill. She sat back down while placing my cup in front of me. I said thanks and encouraged her to continue talking.

"Oh. Do you feel like you owe me your ears now, because I filled your cup?"

"Kind of." I said.

She gives me her best apathetic look and I take it because I will probably return it to her halfway through her long-winded story about who and them, I and him, etc., etc., etc. Come on eyes and ears, I know the feet brought you here, but listen.

"Do you want to hear what happened?" She smiles like a child who just dropped their ice cream cone and are trying not to let their disappointment show.

"Of course, Brie. Tell me."

"I really outdid myself this time," she started.

"What did you do?" That was I trying to seem interested.

She puts her head down, shakes it, and looks back up at me. I can tell the tears are about to come. I glance up at the door and wonder if she would notice if I made a run for it. Thinking that this is clearly not the way I should be thinking, I stop, and ask, "what happened, are you okay?"

She is drinking her coffee diligently. Then puts it down, looks at me again, and then starts choking on her last sip. Just like that she begins violently coughing. I think, dear god, and do my best impersonation of someone that cares. Brie continues coughing, in a way that you can tell is painful. So I decide to run up to the counter to grab a cup of water, I come back and hand it to her. She then just begins to cry. So here I am kneeling beside her, all ready with a cup of water, and I became compelled to hold her. She smelled very good and still felt cold from outside, but I could only console her for a moment until I just felt weird kneeling and hugging her and what for, she was only choking on her caramel cappuccino. I am sure no one died or that she killed anyone or she was really in any serious trouble. This behavior was not unlike her, to just begin crying in the middle of choking in the middle of the blue and green side of the coffee shop. I mean, maybe if we were on the red and orange side she would have felt warmer and happier, maybe I shouldn't have covered up the mosaic table's harmonious message with personal ads from the magazine. I don't know, but I knew I had to find my seat and that other people in the shop noticed Brie's diversion from reality. Okay, okay. It wasn't our third meeting, so technically I didn't have to listen, but since tears were shed, I decided I should.

After apologizing several times, she finally looks me in the eye and begins her story. "I didn't mean for it to happen, but then again who does. I know that I made the right choices, but I kind of hate myself for every thought I had. It was at work and you know my best friend Christine that was transferred to Illinois, I think you met her before. Well, I was assigned to work on a project with a guy from our office who she one, day out of the blue, a week before I started working with him, she tells me she likes him. She knew I was going to be working with him for three months with one of our biggest clients."

She pauses, takes a sip and then looks at me, maybe to see if I am paying attention, or just to make sure I didn't run off. Or maybe I just read that expression off her face because I feel guilty about contemplating both. However, for some reason I stay to watch her face move, her lips form words, and her nostrils dance. I really had no idea where she was going with all of this. I remained quiet for quite sometime when I finally realize she is kind of waiting for that little boost of energy that people give others when they feel like they are sharing something that they do not share with everyone. And somehow, I got lucky, I got to be the one who listened to her crazy, pointless, circle stories about everything little and nothing relevant. So I followed suit and encouraged her, "So ... (which would have been plenty of a response, but I somehow feel the need to expand), so, don't leave me on the edge of my seat, what is the significance of all of this?" She half rolls her eyes, and says, "forget it." My words do exactly opposite of what I intended them for. I quickly scan my thoughts and realize this may not have backfired on me. Maybe she will stop talking. What an idiot, I came into this knowing how it would be and came anyway. Why bother, why bother with anything at all? Something urges me to say, "Tell me." I don't necessarily like when she talks but I like her less when she doesn't.


Return to the Summer Fiction index. Tammie Gizicki lives in Detroit. Send comments to [email protected]

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