Never Beens

It was late in life—too late—that they got together, and it was just for coffee. Really. They were okay seeing each other after a few decades, but both really needed the coffee. When you get old, you get sleepy easily and early. It was twilight, the sun was setting and four eyelids drooped.

“How’ve you been?” Arthur slurred, almost inaudibly.

“Been? I’ve been, um, the same,” Shirley chirped back.

“The same as what?” he asked reflexively.

“As always,” she sighed.

They drank from the tall plastic cups and stared out at the clicking laptops and silent people lining the too familiar universal coffee chain.

“Is Harry feeling better?” he asked, squinting as a harsh beam from the dying sun lashed at his eyes.

Shirley cleared her throat.

“He’s feeling as well as can be expected.”

Arthur never knew what one should expect but he let it go.

“You?” sputtered Shirley uncomfortably. “I mean Hazel, of course.”

“She reads all the time. And talks on the phone with a friend from school days,” said Arthur. “I suppose that’s a good thing.”

“More coffee?” Shirley suggested.

“Nah. That’s enough. I’ll walk you to your car,” said Arthur.

They walked, quietly together, thinking about the long gone years, the short future and what to do with the remaining days. But neither said a word. Then, they got to the car.

“Well, that’s unexpected,” Arthur said evenly.

Shirley’s car was on blocks and the hubcaps were gone. Who knows what else was missing.

“Yes,” said Shirley. She sighed, then smiled.

“At least now we have something to talk about,” she said.

They retuned to the coffee shop and talked and drank decaf until they fell asleep in the booth, leaning on each other.