Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 26 – Outside the circle
There was a chill wind as I took up my appointed place outside the doorway of our Monday morning cafe. The Summer had been a poor one for the North of England. Now, it looked as though the Autumn was about to arrive prematurely. I pulled my too-thin rain mac around my collar for warmth in the breeze blowing in from the dark sea.
It was already 08:45, fifteen minutes into our regular meeting time. Through the glass of the doorway, I could see Alexandra drinking her coffee and looking worried that I was so late. Five minutes later, she checked her phone, for the fourth time, looking for reasons for this uncharacteristic laxity on my part.
I was standing to one side of the door and could only be seen by people coming in and out. To those inside the cafe I was invisible – but, because of the refraction of the bright light, I could see, clearly, into the interior.
I watched, sad that it had to be this way, but conscious of the greater purpose of the uncharacteristic act. I watched as she finished her second coffee, then looked, one last time, at her phone, checking it for messages and then getting to her feet, reluctant to leave the space in which so many of our meaningful encounters had taken place.
She stopped in the opened doorway when she saw me, standing stock still and making no effort to enter. “You’ve not been there all the time . . .” her head shook in disbelief. “ . . . Have you?”
I nodded. Looking deeply into those hazel eyes and holding out the small envelope I had brought. It contained a home made card.
“A little farewell present,” I said.
“Farewell!” Her voice withered as the implication sank in. “Why? Have I let you down?”
“Quite the opposite,” I said, smiling sadly. “You’ve been a wonderful pupil.”
“Then why?” It was a plea, and nearly a cry.
“I have to say goodbye to what you are.” I said.
“To what I am?”
“Yes,” I said. “There is no other way.”
“There’s always a way – you showed me that!”
“Not for this . . . this is different.” My tone was gentle. This was hard, and could only be approached head-on.
“Goodbye? – just like that, after all we’ve done; all the work and humour and all your efforts?” She clutched at the door frame to steady herself. “You’ve played tricks on me before – granted always with a higher purpose. Is this another?”
“No trick,” I said. “I have to say goodbye to what you are . . .”
“Wait, wait,” she said, pushing me further up the pavement to allow a couple into the coffee shop. “‘to what I am’ – that’s very specific language . . .”
It was the cue I needed. I pushed the card into her hand, saying nothing. She looked down at it as though it was cursed. “Do I open it now?” She sounded dejected.
“It might make you feel better . . .”
I watched as she tore open the envelope. Inside was a plain white card comprising two pages. The inner sheet, where the greeting normally is, contained a stark image of a circle with black and white dots along its perimeter line.
I leaned to kiss Alexandra on the cheek and, wordlessly, strode off across the marine drive, leaving her there; mute but raging.
At that moment, I hated myself, but there was no other way . . .
What would she make of the card? Would it speak to her?
———————————————-< Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is normally published on Thursdays.