Sometimes the coffee is burnt. Pour it into the styrofoam anyway. One of the last times, in another state, no one wanted to be there until they stepped free of the rain torrenting outside. Everyone sat around a table and opened up and bled a little. Church basement. Rain coats dripping on the backs of plastic and metal chairs made for middle schoolers.
A woman said she was celebrating her day of days. So all six of the rest of us clapped extra hard. One guy was a welder. Another had been a priest. I used to live down the street from the church and threw up on its white steps a few more times than I cared to admit. The coffee had non dairy creamer, and the fluorescent light gave us all a kind of alien purple tint.
At one point my mind drifted, first to the linoleum, then it scurried up across the stage where children presented their passion plays and further, up to the tiles in the ceiling, with the irregular shaped perforations perfectly placed in each one. The clock said something but I wanted to ignore time. I wanted to be a duck floating on a pond somewhere as the sun set into that golden light. I wanted to grab a stack of mylar balloons and run for the hills, but then someone said something about being egocentric and they all pulled me back down to the table. And it goes like that, night after night after night.
Weeks later I ate grape leaves from a tray in a Koreatown backyard. An Aussie told me how he’d landed in the States and neither of us were alone because of that shared ability to be relative to each other. How often that ceases, and relieves every furrow. How easy it is to unload our trucks.
by Hank Cherry