Nameless Conversation

Rain pattered softly outside the frosted window. He saw her standing in the cafe, sweeping the floor. Night was settling on the city, two lamp posts illuminating the street as darkness nestled around him. He stepped forward, under the awning, to pull open a door that should have been locked, but wasn't. She looked up as he strode in. Standing on the steps leading into the cafe he saw her there, broom in hand. Immediately to his left sat a half-finished chess game, the queen poised to take the king. The lights over the counter flickered, briefly casting shadows along their faces. A proverb, "A shadow is but the night's way of disguising you." He moved closer, flipping a wooden chair on top of a circular table so she could sweep under it. The closer he got to her the faster his heartbeat. It was her eyes. They studied his face as her heartbeat, unbeknownst to him, sped up. She spoke, "Awful weather isn't it?" He nodded, not trusting himself enough to speak. He knew what he wanted, but did not know how. "I...I missed you." Trembling slightly, he released a flurry of curses in his head. Her eyes flickered, disguising her emotions. "I know". That was all she trusted herself to say. Scared to reveal herself she looked down, avoiding his gaze. She stepped away, "How have you been?" The lights flickered again. In the brief darkness, he found the courage to say, "Terrible without you." Her back turned, she stopped, resting the broom on a counter stool. "Don't...please." "How...", his voice died. Caught between a step forward and a step backward he froze in place. Dozens of scenarios had danced in his head on the walkover. But life never played out that way, did it? It was a problem that had plagued him for years, the shattering of expectations was a pain he never got used to. He moved, grabbing her shoulder to spin her around. He needed to see her face. It was her eyes...he sought something that wasn't there. The lights flickered for a third time as lightning struck outside. Crippling self-doubt exploded in his mind. "No!", the words in his head as sharp as ones spoken aloud. His naivety fed his belief in it, some abstract concept of love. "I won't play this. I don't know how. You seem bothered by my honesty, by the urgency." The rain poured harder. The sound of thunder steadily grew closer. "Look outside, the weather is horrid. I have to go. Come by another time, we can talk then." Frustration bloomed in his chest as lightning flashed. He acted without thinking, temporarily blinded. "No, I won't come back here to do this again. I cannot keep having the same conversation, leaving empty. You know why I'm here, you know what I want." Her eyes met his. He felt cleaved in half as if a gap had opened in his chest. Tears stung his eyes but refused to fall. He was suddenly out of breath, an indescribable ache filling him. "I can't answer you. I have to leave. You can't just ask me this, you can't just put this on me." She went to leave, brushing past his shoulder as she did. "Then where am I supposed to put it," he said quietly. "Who can I ask?" He knew he shouldn't have pushed. He slumped against one of the wooden pillars connecting the ground to the roof. The ache was familiar. Words, spoken and unspoken, flashed in the empty room. Gaining a breath, he walked over to turn off the lights over the counter. Stepping to the chessboard, he moved the queen over to knock over the king. He placed the piece in his coat pocket and grabbed the spare key to the cafe. Using it, he locked the door behind him. He exhaled, watching it all evaporate into the night air. He knew now what made her eyes so special. Each fleck was a piece of his heart that had splintered along the way. He was so sure that she was it. The carrier of his heart. His eyes found the light, and he walked towards it.