The same coffee
Every footstep is as it was before. Before this, this came along and attempted to make everything different. The two of them were the only two to know exactly what had happened; it was a million years they both filled with whatever they needed to. They sat at the table, and neither of them commented on how the chairs were not comfortable, and how the air conditioning was making the place so cold. They did allow that they had seen each other here on the same day a few weeks earlier. The same place, getting the same coffee.
It's not hard to smile when I'm nervous, he said to himself. My mouth is dry, everything feels like an attack. But I can smile, I can always smile. This is clearly wrong, he thought. But then he didn't know what else to do. Not smile? What kind of an impression does that give?
She nodded phatically along to any of his words, his aural evidence that this was normal, considered. That this was the same. Her cup looked so huge in her hands. Her fingers looked fragile, he thought, like if he should reach out and touch them he wouldn't actually be able to feel anything. Like they wouldn't be the same.
They talked in cycles, like friends do. There was nodding and silent, polite attention from whoever wasn't speaking at that moment. There was no interruption or correction, like friends do. Neither was confident enough for that yet. The coffee went cold long before the seats became unbearable. He kept looking at his coat and hat, wondering if he put them on before or after they would step outside; what do I normally do? She kept looking away at something not there, that was not trying to be the same. It wasn't hard for them to keep the conversation on track, avoiding that which would inevitably separate them like barbed wire between two fields. That would make its own way through.
Outside, he said he wanted to make his own way back. She shivered with a violence that frightened him at first. They went to her car, sat in the same seats as before. I have nothing to say to you. This winter had been vicious and had gotten involved. Nights had been longer and been cruel, and it's strange how no one can be prepared for what always comes. Absolutely everything stays the same.
The car pulled up outside his house, which had a welcoming face for neither of them. The snow crunched as he walked to the door, where he stood and made a joke that she didn't respond to. Always the same. He watched her drive away. The engine didn't struggle against the cold; reliable, built for it. Some things can take the weather, the harsh turns and not change. Thank god for these things. He closed the front door. The house stood silent, as it always did.