impress me

Guess what I've been reading.

She orders a coffee just for the look of things, and sometimes she pretends to drink it. He drinks his, and when his eyes leave his own cup it's only to glance at hers. She smiles at this: he is afraid to meet her gaze, to look at anything besides her hands as they cradle the cup, turn it, raise it slowly--he is afraid and, she can see in his frightened eyes, he is not keeping up, either. He's still thinking about his coffee and she is talking, the rain and the wind and the storms, and weather systems a hundred miles away, still forming in the turbulent Pacific, ready to rip across the rain-soaked land, rend trees apart, plunge communities into darkness.

And as she tears across the landscape of his mind he tries to smile at some turn of phrase, even to interject something--his chance for a joke--but she has already moved on from there, leaving ruin in her wake, and so he returns to his coffee. He can keep up with his coffee, which is white and sweet, which he fidgets with like a nervous habit. She smiles again and lets the silence take him, and he fills it with nonsense, apologetic babble, disjointed thoughts, stumbling over themselves, trying to impress and failing--FEMA in the wake of her devastation, bumbling around, unable to make sense of what has happened much less do anything with it, much less move on.

Still he talks, and now it's her turn to focus on the coffee--dark and bitter and burning hot, but not nearly hot enough for her--she could be drinking the sun, drinking supernovae, drinking the jets from black holes, and it would still feel so cold--so she generates her own heat, burns up whole galaxies and leaves nothing standing.

"I'm not waiting for the universe to grow cold," she says, and this time he looks at her, startled. "And you're going to have to learn to keep up." And she finishes her coffee and leaves with a laugh.

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