photo and words by lindsey cristofani
She approached the corner booth and found a round-faced man with glossy brown skin and a baseball cap bent over the menu. She stood above him, leaned her thigh against the rounded corner of the table and set down a steaming pot of coffee. He glanced away from the stained open menu on the table in front of him and nodded an acknowledgment to the coffee pot. In his periphery, he caught some soft curve of waist. It swelled into hip that filled and spilled from a floral print denim skirt.
She poured him coffee. Roy Orbisonâ€™s voice wafted in and she asked him two questions to gauge how alone he was and what he would eat.
He took out his hands and placed them palm down, fingers spread and ringless, just past the edge of the chipped formica. The sun poured in fat dusty beams through the window behind his head painting a bright yellow rhombus on the surface of the table. He had dipped his calloused hands directly into the angular one-dimensional pool of sunlight. They both gazed down at his hands while he spoke. She was transfixed by the swollen hands for seconds, remembering, before she knelt down and balanced on her toes by grasping his knee. She was almost underneath the table. She noticed a rainbow of raised splotches of chewing gum, like hives, in patches underneath the tabletop.
She cocked her head until his face eclipsed the sun and she could look up at him directly. His eyes fell onto her breasts before he saw her face.
She whispered up to him, â€œDo you remember me? I didnâ€™t recognize you at first either. Iâ€™d tell you my name, but it was probably different back then.â€
â€œOh wow,â€ he said, and a crooked smile grew over his brown marbled teeth. She looked over her shoulder and opened her red lips to say something, an excuse or maybe a joke, but then he lay the weight of his hand over hers on his knee. He laughed an â€˜oh-my-god,â€™ bobbing his head in the sunlight like a cockatiel. She giggled and caught her breath as she pushed herself up from his knee and leaned in towards him, closer and closer until the bill of his hat was pressed against her forehead, suspending her face in front of his.
â€œI didnâ€™t realizeâ€¦â€ he started, eyes darting left and right. She just blew her breath at him and made a gentle ssssshhhh sound. He looked at her face, so close to his that his vision blurred and he saw only one big blue eye in the center. She felt the heat of the sunrays on her neck and cheek and closed her eyelids.
She said, â€œDonâ€™t you worry baby. Your secretâ€™s safe with me. Iâ€™ll go put in your order.â€
She picked the coffee pot up from the table and walked back to the kitchen, filling up every coffee cup along the way.