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Sweet Cinnamon and Sour Lemons

Sitting in a diner, it’s a little late and the waiter’s a little distracted but he checks on me every few minutes when he pauses from his phone for a minute. Then he’ll look back down and I’ll continue either looking or sipping at the coffee that’s too black and too bitter but not add anything to it because that’s not why I got this coffee.

I don’t smoke but I wish I had a cigarette just to finish this look I’m imagining I have right now. The black coffee is a little like mud and I cringe when it touches my tongue and I’m glad the waiter hasn’t seen this. I’m picking at a few cold fries I ordered thirty minutes ago and I hear footsteps to the side of me.

A figure walks into my view and now there you are, sitting across from me like it was just yesterday. The sight of you makes my breath catch in my throat and the glint in your eye is still there and it makes my neck heat up and my heart skip a beat.

“How have you been?” You ask with your sweet, low voice. And I tell you I’ve been fine, I’ve missed you.

A soft smile licks your lips and your folded hands are placed on the table, a little nearer to my side and so I put my own folded hands on the table as well. You tell me you’ve missed me, too, and my hair’s gotten so long. Do I like it?

“I’m still getting used to it,” I admit with a breath. I don’t tell you I’m still getting used to you being gone, too. I think you hear the unsaid words anyway when your eyes drop from mine for just a moment. Then they’re up again, staring into mine and your smile grows into something beautiful and sincere and you lean in a little closer still. Your hands are a few inches from mine and I pretend not to notice but I let my fingers creep closer, too.

“Hey, you remember when,” and then you’re gone into old memories and I try to keep my laughs quiet but you and I both know how difficult that is for me. My eyes close and my cheeks get pink and when I open them again your eyes have soft wrinkles around them and you’re looking at me like I’m something special.

No matter how many stories you tell and no matter how much I laugh, no matter how close our hands get and no matter how much further we lean in, we’re still two worlds away. I let myself get pulled by the air around you and I smell a sweet warmth like cinnamon and when my eyes dip down to the table between us, I notice our fingers are barely an inch away. The breath in my throat catches and your words slowly trail off because now you’ve noticed too.

Tears prick my eyes and I try to swallow the lump that’s newly formed. “It’s not fair,” I manage to squeak out between trembling lips. Your jaw clenches and your eyes get serious. “I miss you.” Both of us are looking at the closeness to our hands and we both notice when mine shift just a little bit closer. Just a little further, but not touching. Never touching.

You sigh but you don’t move your hands away. You don’t lean back and in fact, I think you move forward still. “I’m so sorry,” you say so quietly, “I’m so sorry I hurt you. I wish I could – “ and your lift your hand ever so slightly and it passes right through mine. A dam somewhere in my chest bursts and I try to choke back a sob.

“I wish I could take it back, just to touch you one last time.”

And then you’re gone and all I have left are the spits of my heart dripping around me and the cold black coffee and the cold leftover fries.

The cinnamon that was once in the air surrounding me is gone and is now replaced by sour, bitter lemon. A regret so strong I could taste it and that’s the only sign I have that you were ever really here.

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