It had just finished raining when the cabdriver hastily pulled over to the curb and impatiently waited for his fare. Grudgingly she placed the money in his hand and stepped out of the metal deathtrap. God, she hated this part of the city! But it was a perfect halfway point between their two residences so it was always at this intersection that they would meet up. She was early. She hated being early, or late for that matter but in a city this size, it was hard to figure how long getting there would take. He was always late.
The cold air hit her as soon as she opened the car door and she realized immediately that she should have dressed a little bit warmer. Shivering to shake it off, she walked toward the café grimly noticing the streetlights, shining on the wet pavement, causing the entire street to appear as gunmetal. Typical she said to herself and at once was reminded of the dominant masculine mood of the café. She shivered again and began pacing now at a quite steady gate toward her destination. As she walked she tried to occupy her thoughts.
Starting down the sidewalk towards the restaurant, she recalled their last meeting here. He, as always, had shown up late and she, after drinking cup after cup of coffee until he finally arrived, was in no mood for dinner or pleasant conversation.
The people that frequented the shops in this neighborhood made her skin crawl. She hated the way they would look at her. Watching her every move. Looking around she wondered why he always chose this place? Upon her last visit down here she had slipped into the booth and demurely ordered her coffee. The glances from the men in the café made her feel like a pastry in a baker's window. The lecherous expression on their faces, the dirty snickers amongst themselves, it had sickened her. Granted, the food in this place was always delicious- if you could hold onto your appetite long enough to enjoy it. As the moments ticked by, she had been simmering to a slow boil, remembering the last time she had waited for him here. When he had finally arrived, she had told him, among other choice statements, that it was the last time! Even now nothing had changed, nothing ever did. But his phone call today and usual charm had made her reconsider. "It will be fun," he said. "Just like in the old days." Somehow she didn't share his enthusiasm or his sense of adventure, but for some reason, he could do that to her. He could get her to agree to just about anything just by using that certain soothing voice inflection and enthusiasm. She despised herself for it.
Cold and anxious for the warmth of the café, she walked steadily and occupied her thoughts with visions of what would transpire later that evening, but her attempts at self-distraction were thwarted as overhead the subway screamed by so loudly that any other scream would be lost to it. She wondered how many screams it had in fact drowned out, and cursed herself for allowing her pleasant thoughts to be pushed aside for such morbid ones. God, she hated this part of the city.
As she entered the doorway of the restaurant she could not help but let out a small laugh as she noticed him sitting in the corner booth, like always, with that studious look, reading the Wall Street Journal, sipping his coffee. Damn! How could she be annoyed with such an innocent sight! Smiling, she approached the table where he sat and bending to kiss his cheek, gave him a warm "Hello." "You are actually early," she exclaimed and took his hand in hers like she had a thousand times before. He just looked at her and she could see in his eyes the warmth that he felt for her. "And you look beautiful!" He whispered. Sitting down she looked at him again and remembered how annoyed she had been when she stepped from the cab. She could no longer hold any animosity seeing him sitting before her with his hair combed that same way, or the newspaper rolled and set aside just like it always seemed to end up. God, she loved this man.
After exchanging the latest news of the day, she called the waitress over and ordered the daily special and when she had finished ordering her meal, she looked at him in anticipation, all the while knowing that he would order what he always ordered. Some things really do never change. This task being done, she discreetly looked around at the other patrons. They were all caught in their own conversations, or greedily eating their meals. As always, a few of the regulars glanced her way and the look they gave made her feel as if she was in need of a shower, but here with him, she felt safe. She knew that if any man would be her protection, it would be him. All the while her thoughts were racing about the dangers of a place like this and there he was, oblivious to her anxiety, chatting away about some fiasco in the financial district. He really was something else. She wished more than anything that he could have known just how special he really was. By the time the food was finally brought to the table, the two had changed the mood of the café considerably with their laughing about the old times, sharing stories and giving each other knowing glances about the patrons who sat around them. The waitress that took their order laughed along with them as she left their plates-- smiling and shaking her head as she walked away. "Now that's not something you see everyday," she said to herself as she headed back toward the kitchen. "Not in times like this."
By the time they had finished eating, the crowd in the little café had cleared, providing a perfectly intimate setting for them to drink their coffee and finish catching up. He always made her giggle uncontrollably with his jokes and such. However, tonight, even with the comedy, the mood was different, almost somber. Shaking off yet another foreboding feeling she focused her attention on the man who sat across from her like he had so many times before. She watched him as he talked. She watched his eyes-the eyes that were so familiar to her, eyes that had told her so many times how much he loved her with no words needing ever to be said. She watched his lips as he told her of his adventures of the week before. His smiles made her smile as he delighted her with stories about the people or "characters" as he called them, who live in his building. The two laughed as they realized that in a city like this, normal is not a word that is easily defined. In disgust, he quipped about the clothes being worn by the kids who hung around downtown by the subway station on 125th street, and she reminded him that the same was done about them in younger years. Still though, the laughter continued. Once again she reflected on the years past and realized how much she loved the man.
As the minutes of the evening turned to far too long for just dinner, the two headed out of the restaurant to the old movie house down the street. "Please let it be open," she thought to herself as she walked vulnerably holding onto the arm of the man at her side. The two walked slowly, enjoying their time together. As they approached the old theater, the man was delighted to see that a Humphrey Bogart double feature was playing tonight. He loved old black and white movies. And she loved them because he did. As the two approached the ticket counter, She reached for her purse to pay for the tickets just as he held the money to the clerk. "No, this is on me" she said, and he admonished her by stating what a poor date this would be if he made such a lovely lady pay her own way. With the imitation of a blush, she graciously accepted his generosity and allowed him to pay, just like she had been doing for so many years. And he, knowingly, gave her a wink and smiled at the cashier. The two walked into the theater again with her clinging to his arm, but this time it was not for protection. This time she held his arm out of shear affection for the man to whom she so dearly loved.
Sitting next to him, She thought of the many times over the years that she had done the same thing that she was doing now: how many movies, how many dinners. She stayed with this thought for a moment and again that same sense of sadness overcame her. She felt the pain in the pit of her stomach and refusing to acknowledge the foreboding thoughts, she once again focused on the movie and tightly held the hand of the man sitting next to her. With that same intensity that she had seen thousands of times before, he watched the movie, unaware of the thoughts in the head of the beautiful woman by his side.
By the time the theater emptied, the streets were dark and quiet and colder than they had been earlier in the evening. Noticing her shivering, he removed his jacket and placed it around her shoulders. Although she resisted for fear of his discomfort, he insisted and she obeyed, grateful for his selflessness. After walking back to the intersection where she had stepped out of the cab earlier in the evening, the two, exhausted from such a busy day, agreed to go their separate ways. She still was tormented by that same foreboding feeling that had been present all evening: she could feel it, but not wanting to spoil a perfect evening, she kept her thoughts locked tightly and allowed him to hail her a cab. As the two said their goodbyes, she felt it again like a stab of grief, and realized what the feeling was telling her. Such a feeling was never wrong since her childhood and she knew it to be true. As the two embraced She realized that this was the last time they would ever be together. As the cab turned the corner approaching them, desperately she pleaded to go with him, for him to take her back with him, to never let her go, but he impatiently explained that that was not possible. Firmly, he insisted to her that they both had a life to wake up to in the morning, and that they had a wonderful night. There would be other nights like this. Having said this, he kissed her on the forehead and closed the taxicab door.
As the cab drove away, sadly, she looked out the window and with tears of grief whispered "goodbye Daddy, I love you."