coffee by ingridfnl

31 Jan

“Maggie. See that guy. The one over there in the red shirt. He’s been in here every day this week,” Francine whispers to me over the counter. With a tilt of her head, she gestures to the man sitting in the corner booth.

I nod back at her, then turn to wipe some tables.

All I can see are two hands emerging from either side of a newspaper, but I know who she means. He’s been coming in for more than a week, but Francine’s been on holidays and doesn’t know this.

She says, “He’s kind of cute.”

“He looks like he’s at least sixty,” I reply, “he’s ancient.”

“He has nice eyes,” she says. I look away.

I know who he is and I am not going to give him the satisfaction of acknowledging him as anything but some guy who wants to drink bad coffee in a diner.

The first day he had been less shy. Curiosity, I guess. I saw him watching my every move as if he found filling ketchup bottles fascinating. At some point I’d had enough of  being watched and had stood staring at him, attempting to remain expressionless. (I’d actually been going for a bit of contempt, but I was so flustered by the direct act I am pretty sure I failed.) At any rate, my hoped-for unwavering glare had at least been enough for him to look away. And now he knew that I knew.

I searched for him for years and now he is here and I have nothing to say to him. All of my grandmother’s assurances of, “Surely he must be dead by now,” did nothing to take away my longing to meet my father, if only to kick him, but now I find myself unable to say even a word to him. His crinkled photo is in my wallet. Now he looks older but the same and I find that I am disappointed that he doesn’t look more run down or down on his luck.

In my head, I had made up all kinds of reasons for his disappearance. He was an alcoholic who lived on the street and was ashamed to get in contact. He was a successful business mogul who, in his opulent lifestyle and demanding profession, did not have time to get in touch with me, a waitress in Pugsie. He was not really my father, but my mother and grandmother had used the picture of a stranger so that they could tell me something, anything. He was an asshole and didn’t deserve my time or consideration since he had abandoned us.

It was this last reason I had held to. Over the past couple of weeks I had found myself coldly and briskly walking to his table holding out the coffee pot to give him a refill. He’d nodded. I’d poured the coffee and walked away. This had been our heartfelt meaningful communication.

I fight with the thought that he would be disappointed in my profession. I imagine saying, “It put me through college,” but this makes me think of stripping, which would have surely been more lucrative. The truth is that I had failed out of college and as with every failure in my life, I had blamed him and his absence.

Today is the day. I am tired of him here, watching me, exhausting me daily. Today I will ask him to leave and not come back. Him and his stupid newspaper. He has the same eyes as me. I hate our resemblance. I love our resemblance.

I find myself beside his table, “Cup? I mean, fill? I mean, do you want more coffee?”

He looks up at me ever so briefly and nods, “Thanks.” He looks away as if intent on the Travel and Living section open in front of him.

I want to scream at him, “Look at me! Why are you here?” But I nonsensically say “Thanks” back to him and with shaking hands miss his coffee cup and watch the scalding coffee splash onto the table.


7 Responses to “coffee by ingridfnl”

  1. juleshg January 31, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    Well Ingrid, you know what they say about great minds! We were on the same wave length for sure this week: coffee shops and long lost fathers.

    • ingridfnl January 31, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

      I know, right? I had to giggle to myself as I was reading yours. 🙂 Incredible coincidence.

  2. thatgrrl January 31, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    That’s one way to start a conversation. Ouch.

  3. jadamthwaite February 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

    I love the image in the last paragraph. You really captured that sense of being determined you’re about to do something and then not being able to when it comes to it and getting flustered. This would make a really nice beginning of a film.

  4. phoenix.writing February 21, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    It definitely leaves me wondering exactly what happens after the coffee spills. I want to know just why he left almost as much as Maggie does, I think. ^_^


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