cream invades the coffee black, reprise

I used to take my coffee black. I never understood these weird little rituals she had of pouring and stirring or not stirring and watching the little spirals spread through her coffee's unsullied surface. It all seemed so unnecessary--I guess I just thought of coffee as nothing more than something to drink. Energy in the mornings, keeping long nights longer, sure, but it was, first and foremost, a beverage. I used to believe a lot of strange things.

We never discussed it, of course. I became used to her rituals, and she became used to what, if I ever thought about it, I probably thought of as my no-nonsense approach. I hadn't yet realized that there's no such thing as "no-nonsense." But there were worlds of meaning being exchanged, even if I wasn't aware of it. Perhaps neither of us were, but I think she understood. She was much better at nuance than I.

I probably should have noticed, for instance, that eventually her ritual got shorter. Sometimes she'd forgo the cream or the sugar. And somehow when she did pour and stir--and she always stirred now--it didn't feel like a ritual anymore. But who was I to wonder about someone's tastes changing? Nor did I really pay any mind when the waitress asked if I wanted cream and I said "sure, why not?" instead of my usual "no, I'm good."

Then one day we were supposed to meet for coffee and she wasn't there. She wasn't anywhere. She'd disappeared, like she always talked about doing--I didn't know she'd meant it. I started to take cream in my coffee then, and since then I've started doing all sorts of other things, like pay attention to the little things.

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