Amy has had cancer for 7 years. She lost a breast, but honestly she doesn’t think about it much. She’s back healthy, cancer-free, and everyone tells her she’s probably out of the woods. She never gave up the hat though. The one she wore when she didn’t have any hair. It looks good now capping thick gray locks – the hair makes her look both younger, because it’s so thick and, older because of the gray.
Brian works at the coffee shop that Amy has been going to for over a year and a half. Every morning, Amy comes in and orders light roast and sits down to read. This blows Brian’s mind. There’s this sense of grace that Amy commands that always reminds him of a priest in a sunlit church all alone. Brian never feels that. Except when he’s around Amy. It’s almost like his perception of her becomes his feelings inside, which sounds stupid.
Amy’s back at work. Everyone’s cool and all that but she thinks everyone knows just how close she is to the edge; how slippery the ridge, how foreboding the relapse. It’s right around the fucking corner. Of course there are survivors, but she’s been back with the chemo twice. The doctors and nurses cheer; and Amy can tell that they care with every fiber of their being. They’ve seen it so much and they’re fucking sick of seeing it. Victories for them are victories over whatever devil biology musters.
Brian is also sick and tired. Sick and tired of this job – not that he doesn’t love it in the sense that it’s comfortable and the customers love his patter and his coffee. The regulars light up his life. Most of them. They are his friends – certainly beyond whatever friends he has from high school and all that. But he’s sick and tired of not having a girl like Amy in his life. He deserves it as much as the next guy and she’s there and they’ve talked enough for him to know all about her cancer and he thinks she thinks he’s freaked out by it, but any attempt at convincing someone you’re not freaked out by something, sounds totally freaked out. So he doesn’t say anything.
Amy likes Brian. He’s one of the few constants in her life that just feels good. He’s funny and likes to drop in the “Cappuccino you later”s and rather than being annoyed, Amy feels right. She feels like he’s someone who understands that the constant, grim determination to be new, hip, novel and relevant, crushes the soul. Repetition is good. That’s why we have ritual.
Brian hands Amy her coffee. The sun beams through the Dunn Brother’s window. The room buzzes. She laughs for no real reason other than it’s all good, at least right now.
“Another day, another light roast,” Brian says.
“Thank you, sir,” she intones in a familiar military manner and Brian laughs.
She turns for her table.
“Amy,” he says, “wanna get a cup of coffee sometime? Uh, anywhere other than this sad joint?”