This is an older piece, newly revised.
I ended up kissing that kid Joey from high school at the bar on Thursday night. It was messy, and I probably never would have thought twice about it if Tim hadn’t called me the next day to “talk things over.” I asked him what the hell there was left to say on the matter.
I met him at Peet’s Coffee an hour later. I had that kiss with Joey under my belt as ammunition, a final proof that I, in fact, would be just fine without him.
We stood at the counter, staring at the menu like we’d never been to a coffee shop before. In the end, each of us ordered a small cup of coffee. I sat down at the table near the window, away from everything else.
“Is your coffee too hot?” he asked, blowing into the cup disapprovingly. The steam rose into his face, fogging his glasses.
“Oh, quit stalling,” I said. “Coffee’s supposed to be hot. Now what did you want to talk about?”
“I don’t understand why you’re so angry all of the time,” he whispered like he always did when he wanted to compensate for my louder voice.
“I wish for once you could just see yourself the way I see you. You wouldn’t be able to stand yourself either.” I took a sip of my coffee, noticing the simultaneous numbed swell of my taste buds.
“Maybe this was a mistake,” he said. “Maybe you were right about there being nothing left to say.”
I didn’t buy his surrender. I slurped my coffee, waiting for his next mode of attack.
“I didn’t want it to end this way,” he said.
“How do you suggest we end this, then?” I asked.
“I don’t know? Amicably? We’re good together, you and I, but just not… you know.”
I looked at him. “I don’t know, no.”
“You are such a different person than when I met you. Would you agree?” he asked.
“You don’t get to be disappointed in me,” I protested. “We’re not together anymore. ”
“Lower your voice.”
“No! You don’t hear me, do you? I’m sick of feeling like I have to impress you and your damn family.”
“You shouldn’t feel like you have to impress me! Don’t you get it? We’ve been together two years, and you’re still treating me like you just met me. ”
“You don’t think you’re judgmental?” I asked, baiting him.
He crossed his arms and leaned back. “No, I don’t.”
“I made out with Joey Santos the other night.”
He didn’t react, just continued to stare down into his coffee. He shook his head a little, as though I had just provided his vindication.
My right hand, clutching the paper cup, moved with instinct. The coffee made an unsatisfying splashing sound, barely audible, and steam rose from his skin like fog on top of a lake. His cry seemed to come many moments after the initial splash of coffee, and it sounded almost out of place. I was not as shocked at my action as Tim was, or even the staff behind the counter, but rather more curious. I had never thrown coffee, or any liquid for that matter, in someone’s face before.
He stood up out of his chair, knocking it backward, making these tiny staccato noises. His face was a deep red, and he didn’t open his eyes. He looked ready to defend himself, though I had emptied my cup. There was no opportunity for an encore. I didn’t listen to much that he was screaming at me; I don’t listen well to raised voices. The police officer who came to escort me out of the coffee shop spoke more softly, as though he didn’t want to wake me. I heard everything he said.
He put me in the back of his car, and I fell asleep on the way to the station. He didn’t turn the sirens or flashing lights on. It would have been too much mixed with the ruckus coming from Tim’s ambulance.
In court, they showed pictures of the burns on his face. He was sitting right there the whole time, but the jury couldn’t see through the gauze. They compared them to pictures of cuts on my brother’s arms from when we were kids. There were a lot of things that Tim’s lawyer brought up that I thought had nothing to do with the charges at hand, but my lawyer advised me to keep quiet during the proceedings.