A Latte, a Biscotti, and a Miracle
by Tony Noland
She flicked the screen of her phone, hundreds of unread tweets scrolling up and down, up and down, up and down. The usual flood of jokes and quotes, conversation and self-promotion from the thousands of people she followed... it was like watching another person's life flash before her eyes. She sipped at her latte, unseeing. The biscotti was on the plate, untasted. Not uneaten, since she looked down at one point to see that half of it was gone.
It was eaten, but untasted.
Just like she was seen, but unrecognized.
Heard, but disregarded.
Touched, but alone.
She set down the latte and the phone. Carefully, not drawing any attention to herself, she pretended to rub her eyes. Her fingertips pressed into her eyelids, digging hard into the eyeballs underneath. An explosion of incandescent green and purple swirls filled her darkened vision. The pressure was luminous, hot against the back of her neck, as the light of her own making drowned out everything else around her.
When the tears came to the edges of her eyes, she stopped.
Not here. She didn't dare allow herself to weep, not here. She had to keep it together, keep focus and do what she had to do. Blinded by her own inner lights, she lowered her hands and set them on the table. Fingers splayed, she reached out to where she remembered the paper napkin was, next to the plate with the half-biscotti. She brought it up and dabbed at her eyes.
Quickly, quickly... dab, don't linger. Dab and away, and don't cry.
As if anyone would care if she did.
The competing crowds outside were evenly matched. They had competing bullhorns, competing chants, competing signs. The newscrews, invited by both sides, blocked traffic with their vans. The noise made the big windowpane shake, would have made conversation difficult at her table, if she had had anyone to talk to.
And if she had someone to talk to, what would she have said? That it was too bad? That it was just her luck? That she should have checked her Magic 8-Ball before scheduling her abortion for today? That it was a sign for her to turn away from this decision? That it was a challenge for her to overcome?
But there was no one to talk to, was there? She was alone.
Alone, alone, all alone, alone.
All alone in a crowd. All alone with or without useless fucking Brian eating all her food and drinking all her beer, a constant presence in her apartment, in her life and in her bed. All alone with this miracle of her own making. All alone with this intestinal parasite sucking away her energy and lifeblood. All alone on the path, stumbling forward blindfolded.
She looked, and the biscotti was gone.
Eaten, but untasted. Used up and gone without a trace. The sole purpose of its little biscotti life was to bring a moment's overpriced pleasure to the tongue of some caffeine hound, and she'd ruined everything. All the little biscotti wanted was to fulfill its destiny, that one simple little thing... and she had denied it, made a mess of everything.
Don't cry. Don't cry. For fuck's sake, don't cry.
She pressed the crumpled napkin to her eyes, pressing the crumb-stained, cinnamon-scented paper in hard, bringing back the swirling green lights behind her lids.
Just get up and go. Head down, move fast, get up and go. Ignore them, they can't stop you, just go. Make a decision for once in your miserable life. Just get up and go over there. Go through the doors.
When she lowered the napkin, she was blinded by the lights. As they cleared, she realized that someone had taken the seat opposite.
He looked... he looked like he was going to die. She had never seen his face so drawn, like he was made of slowly melting wax.
"There was a message on the machine. They were calling everyone who had... procedures scheduled for today, warning them about the protests." His voice was louder than she'd ever heard it as he tried to rise abover the chanting, shouting noise. He reached out, hesitated, then completed the gesture to take her icy cold hand in his feverishly warm one. "I came down as soon as I understood. When I saw the crowds, I didn't know what to think. It's only luck I saw you in the window."
"Luck. Yes, luck. It was certainly luck."
"Honey... why didn't you tell me? About the baby? About... about this?" He waved his free hand at the protesters, the counter-protesters, the cameras and the lights. "Is this why things have been so weird between us lately? Honey, this is a miracle. Don't you see? This is everything about you, about me, about us together. This -" he waved at her abdomen "- this is our whole future together. Don't you see that?"
Like she was pulling a boot out of mud, she withdrew her hand.
"Yes, I know." She stood and walked toward the door and toward her new life, leaving behind the latte, the empty plate strewn with crumbs, and Brian.
This miracle has served its purpose, she thought. And that's enough.
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