Conversations At A Coffee Shop

“I don’t know whether the truth comes out of your mouth or not anymore. You still love me, even if you won’t say it.”

“I don’t still love you, John.”

“You’ve been saying that since we were 14 years old. And we’ve had, like, four relationships since then, Beth. So of course I’m not going to believe you when you say you don’t love me.”

“I know that. But I don’t love you anymore. Not this time.”

“Then why am I here? You reached out to me.”

“I’m going to leave.” She is rooted and waiting.

“No. Don’t leave.”

She stays still.

I’m sitting at a coffee shop that is empty except for myself and John and Beth, who think I’m listening to music. Instead I’m invading their space. Sitting in a chair that is next to their table, with earbuds in my ears. I was going to turn my music on but then I heard the beginning of their conversation and now I’m their audience.   

“Why did you text me: “I finally see your point. I’m ready to move on?” Why would you text me that?” Her voice is quiet but the accusation stands on the table between them. “And now we’re here, having this conversation again? Again!”

“Yeah, I know. I don’t like me ignoring you. I don’t like you ignoring me.”


“You’re so fucking cold-hearted.” He’s looking for holes to poke, pushing a finger at it to worry it into something larger.

“I am cold-hearted.” He doesn’t see the frustration in her eyes, but I do. They begin to shine. I look down at my phone.

“Blah, blah, blah. You can’t tell me you don’t love me. You can lead me on when you know that I love you? You can do that?” He pauses and then picks at the hole again and says, “You do that.”

Nervous glances out the window. He stares at the street.

John looks back at her and says, “I don’t know you anymore.”

“Whatever.” She sighs. 

He leans back and tries another angle, “I mean. I don’t know. It’s weird to revisit everything. You’re sitting here. It brings it all back. And are you realistically looking to get back together? I know you’re not. But, like . . . ”  He looks off into the distance.

She sips on her tea. Her movements are slow. Careful. Calm. Her face is a white slate. Except for the blush, the lipstick, and the eyes. If you really look at her eyes, you can see the emotions there.

“And maybe it’s just as simple as that. You love me but you don’t want to be with me. But then, what’s that? What the fuck is that? That’s hard.”

Beth’s hands shift in her lap and she gestures limply towards him, “This was not a ploy to like, to . . .”

“I’m not saying that. I’m saying . . .”

Beth leans in towards him and says, “Everyone knows we were great then. But we would be horrible together now. And distance. The distance – it’s not going to help.”

John pushes his hair back from his brow. “I know it doesn’t. Distance is the frickin’ X Factor.”

“I’m just saying, you’re not the person I turn to anymore.”

“That’s good,” he says. John’s eyes are flat now.

No, it’s not. A longer silence.

“Well, this doesn’t answer any of our questions. I didn’t want the last time I see you to be like this. Take a picture of it, this is not what I imagined. This is not what I want to see in my head. And I know I’ll just replay it over and over. God, I hate you for moving away.”

“That was pretty brave,” she says.

The two faces harden, staring back at each other. Eyes blink in a Morse code, each set telling a different story.

“You’re such a bitch,” John’s voice raises for a moment. The barista looks up and John shifts in his seat then lowers his voice again. Beth looks almost happy to hear him curse at her.

“You would just walk away,” he says. “Look, I’m doing well, and getting over you, but you just, you’re fucking with me right now. I don’t know why. I could be friends with you. I could. I guess. But only if I really know that you’re over me. That there’s no chance. And you say it, but then your actions are so different. You know, when you’re drunk, or just really happy. You just – your actions aren’t matching your words.”

Beth folds her legs over each other and stretches her arms up and over her head.

“You know that what I say when I’m drunk, what I do when I’m drunk, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just, it’s easy to contact you and it’s easy to fall back into it with you, but then I don’t want it to last. And you should know that I only turn to you when I’m feeling insecure.”

John’s lip sneers. “I know that.”

“I’m sorry,” Beth replies, but her apology sounds hollow.

“You should be. It was really hard. You make it really hard to go on.”

Beth looks over his shoulder, then says, “Well, and a relationship can’t go anywhere if it’s going to be like this. Any relationship. Friends, together, any of it.”

His shoulders tense. His whole body is stiff. I wonder if he feels separate from it. And then his shoulders slump slightly inward. “I don’t want to say goodbye,” he says, shaking his head.

“First of all, I knew you didn’t want to see me. I knew you weren’t ready. I did want to say hello to you, but I didn’t. I did want to say hello to your mother, when she saw me. What, am I supposed to pretend she’s not there? Pretend you’re not here?” Beth lets out a puff of air and for the first time she sounds less than controlled.

“No. Don’t do that,” says John.

“Basically, you’d like me to be out of your life. So, moving away shouldn’t bother you so much,” she says. Beth scratches her arm, trying to rid herself of an itch.

“I,” John hesitates, “I don’t know, Beth. I want you in it and I don’t.”

“Me too,” she says with a shrug.

“It’s just, I think you can do it emotionally – compartmentalize. You can do that. Separate the past from the present. I can’t. I need to be able to do the same to be able to just be friends with you.”

The silence is where the message lies.

“Okay,” Beth says with a nod.

“Okay,” John echoes. He taps his feet twice and steeples his fingers and hands together. “So, I’ll move on. You’ll move on. We’ll all move on.”

“Okay,” She nods again.

“Okay,” he echoes.

Silence. A pair of sighs.

Beth reaches out to John with one hand and asks him if he’s okay.

He laughs. It sounds empty. It makes me shiver. “Yes. Are you okay?”

She answers too quickly. “Yes.”

He tells her not to cry.

“I’m not,” Beth says. She’s not. Perhaps she’s saving that for later.




“I want to love you the right way,” Beth starts, “But I can’t. I’m too scared to make the connection. To do the work.”

“Well that might be the first honest thing you’ve said here,” John says, studying her. “My theory is, once you’re out there, doing your thing, meeting new people, having your new life, you’ll figure it out. You’re afraid to do stuff, but if you’re pushed to do something, you’ll do it well.”

Beth looks at the floor and smiles to herself. She reaches her other hand out across the table. He takes it and stares into her eyes. He smiles hopefully. She smiles with one side of her mouth.

Neither one looks okay.

I sip on my drink, and try not to listen as they continue to debate loving each other or giving up.

Bob Dylan is playing over the speakers. It Ain’t Me Babe. How ironic and how obvious.

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