by Roland King
A gesture of the heart
|Raw and unadulterated pain.
The normal comfort of a bustling coffee shop
feels like a cacophonous chatter of angry crows.
My usual haunt, where I welcome the friendly
words and waves of not-so-strange strangers,
today feels like a stage spotlit upon which I stand.
No one actually notices
But in that fictional place where our mind dwells—
where every personal detail and every last
secret about ourselves we don’t want the world to see
is somehow emblazoned on our forehead,
undoubtedly marquee-style with big flashing arrows
like a Vegas casino—I fear every person can see this
I don’t want the pity. I don’t want “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Sorry won’t bring anyone back. Sorry won’t undo the last
two weeks of sleeping in a hospital room chair next to a bedside.
Sorry can’t really help erase the discussions you thought
you’d never have about life before and life after the “cardiac event.”
So clinical. Doctors have a funny way of minimizing the humanity
of so delicate a thing as two people begging for
a miracle. One horizontal in a bed, a heart attack at
far too young an age.
The other, vertical and clinging to her hand
like a lifeboat.
No, “sorry” just doesn’t quite cut it.
As I sit in the coffee shop that almost makes me hate
Noise of any kind,
I see a cellophane-wrapped blueberry muffin wordlessly
placed at my small, round table for two. It’s a gnarled hand
with white hair on the knuckles and liver spots.
“You look like you could use this,” says a voice
attached to the body
attached to the hand
I still am staring at.
I taste the muffin in my imagination
a favorite of my childhood,
when the worries and concerns of life
were not extended beyond what to do
I still stare at the hand.
Eventually I will raise my eyes
from this hand of a stranger that has reached out to offer food,
to the face of a fellow widower.
Although I have only held this title for a few hours,
his is decades long.
And we will talk for three hours and forty-seven
Yet the entire time, when I have long since
eaten that muffin, and tossed the cellophane away,
and when we’ve both ordered two more coffees—his black
and mine with a touch of cream—he still
will not once utter the word “sorry.”