18/30: the news
She announces it like she’s telling me the time, reading a headline, there’s nothing implied. Even the sigh she gives after is in answer to a wrong order. She exchanges everything for cinnamon, my head is still swimming in the news. We choose a table inside, I try to hide the lilt in my tone when I bring it up again. It happened over the phone, she says, it was the end of the line, it was time, it was an amicable goodbye. I nod in the right places, keep my face neutral, drink scruples down with my coffee. I bite my tongue and run through sympathetic expressions as my mind wrestles with itself. I don’t offer advice, I devise new ways of saying "yes" and "uh huh" while staying passively supportive. I furtively search for traces of regret on her face, but she doesn’t seem sad. Only tired. They thought they’d anticipated the effort a long-distance relationship would require, and they’ve both been trying, but college is winding up, they have other interests vying for their attention. They didn’t grow together. She mentions wanting to watch extended episodes and I agree immediately. If her way of healing is by stealing laughs from mockumentaries, I’ll play my part in the scene. She’s out of creme cheese, that’s something I can fix. I quickly get up, are two packets enough? Grab them fast, make it back and distract her until class. And as the lecturer gets herself set, I finally let myself breathe. I cleave to cinders and stoke at embers of hope.