I just wished that everyone would shut up.
“Thanks for comin,” I muttered, pushing the coffee cup across the table as he slid into the opposite side of the booth.
“Of course,” he gave me a gentle smile as I looked up just enough to see him.
My eyes fell back to my own coffee cup. “It’s kinda late. I know.”
I could tell he was smiling a little again when he replied, “Well, diners have a special charm at 3 a.m. And besides, you know I tend to be awake this late.”
I forced my own smile, a little one that said I was grateful. “Thanks.”
I didn’t know what I should say. I didn’t know what he’d want me to say. And I didn’t know what I’d want him to say. How do you say you wanna hang out and not say anything?
“I just wish that everyone would shut up.” I didn’t look away from my coffee.
He shifted in the booth across from me.
“I wish they would shut up and stop asking about her. They all want to know if she smoked. Like it’s any of their goddamn business. Don’t they know we knew her? Don’t they know it’s only been a few days? Don’t they know anything at all?”
I knew he was looking at me, but I didn’t want to look up. But for all that I let myself be dejected, knowing that he was watching me, knowing that he was listening to me gave me more comfort than anything else in the world.
“I just hate that they want to know that. It’s like they can say, ‘Oh, well in that case, you know it was her fault.’ Smoking doesn’t cause cancer. It’s just one of the puzzle pieces that raises the risk if you’re already prone.” I wanted to start breaking things or kicking furiously at the seat to express something, anything. I didn’t. I just stared into the coffee. I wasn’t even going to drink any at this hour. “But why the hell do they want to know anyway? Does it give them some satisfaction? Does anyone give a fuck about respecting the dead?”
I hadn’t realized I was going to go off like this. I’d only wanted to sit in the silence of his company. But there I was, letting it all out.
“Don’t they know we loved her? Don’t they know that even if they met her, it’s not like her death could even begin to matter to them the way it does to us?” I let my head slip into my hands. “I just dread answering the phone when someone is asking for custom floral. No, we don’t have a floral director anymore. Oh yeah, she just died of cancer last week. Yeah, you wanna know about it? Shut up. I don’t wanna talk about it.”
I heard his feet shuffling. Suddenly his arms were around me. He was sliding into the booth next to me. His arms circled me, one around my back, one stroking my hair. He didn’t say anything. He knew it would be a lie if he said everything would be okay. It wouldn’t. Not for him. Not for me. But there in the quiet of his embrace I was safe. And at a time when I could not change or soften the bitterness of reality that was all I wanted. The safety of his silence.