At the coffee shop: almost a poem / by Christina Rosalie

She walks out the door ahead of him; long white hair blowing into her face as a truck barrels past. I watch as she turns back toward the door, and at first her face is carelessly content; then she sees him and her features soften almost imperceptibly. She looks up to where he’s paused there on the landing, readying himself to tackle descending the stairs. Does she know that he is dying? Does he? He has the same sparrow like grasp and yellow skin my father had when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The same hunched shoulders in a flannel shirt. The same slow deliberate effort to carry on with the minutia of the day. Coffee in a paper cup; the laces of his leather boots tied in double knots.

He holds the metal rail and takes each step at a time. Then he puts his palm on her shoulder, and they turn, go.

Unbidden, there are tears.

Across the street I watch a man in a wool jacket gather small bouquet of chrysanthemums and yellow leaves. At the edge of the park he pauses for a moment, then tucks them into the slats of a metal bench and walks on.