Kenneth Lawson: The Healing Power of Coffee and Time

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The Healing Power of Coffee and Time

By Kenneth Lawson

He sat on the edge of the bed and pondered many things as he always did in the morning. Most were the same thoughts that always rattled in his head while other random thoughts came and went. The smell of coffee wafting from the kitchen brought him out of his reprieve. He had learned to set the pot on automatic for just this reason. He debated for a second whether to ignore the call of warm black coffee. 

Coffee won. 

It always did.

He got up and followed the aroma of coffee to the kitchen. Pouring himself a cup, he continued to ponder his life.

Damn, he still missed her. It had been many years since the car accident that killed his wife. He’d barely survived but soldiered on, doing what was necessary at the time. Funeral, car, insurance, hospital bills for him, and many of the other mundane tasks that life required of him. But his heart wasn’t in it and he only went through the motions. Doing what was expected of him when necessary and following all the rules.

At some point, he stopped caring. He wasn’t sure when it happened, but he was through pondering, and he decided to leave, just pick up and leave. He cashed out the bank, paid off the bills and closed accounts, and left. Driving as far as he could on a tank of gas, he stopped. He found a dump of a motel, but he didn’t care. It was a roof over his head for the night.

The next day he drove more.

The pattern continued day after day. He drove and ate in whatever cheap diners and restaurants he could find. Most nights he found a motel. Some nights he slept in the car, and on some nights he drove all night. He had no idea where he was going or what he was doing. He barely talked to anyone, preferring to stay away from people.

Every so often, a replay of the accident would float through his mind, nearly causing him to have another accident. Part of him didn’t care. A large part of him didn’t care. But at the same time, he didn’t want to inflict his pain on someone else.

There was a very brief thought of suicide. He quickly dismissed the thought as stupid and irrational. He knew she would want him to live and, hopefully, have a happy life. But it wasn’t happening. So, he drove. He knew he’d eventually run out of road or money, probably money first.

She was sitting at dinner on the twelfth day, drinking coffee and eating toast. He slid onto the stool next to her at the counter and ordered a coffee. The waitress brought him a fresh cup and poured coffee in it and held the pot up to her.

She nodded yes, and the waitress topped off her cup.

 He pointed to the containers of sugar and cream, which were closer to him. “You need sugar or cream?”

 “Eh, ah — no, I take it black. Thanks, all the same.” 

He played with his cup while it cooled off, uneasy because he wanted to talk to her. After a minute, he got the courage. “New around here?”

She glanced at him. He knew he looked like shit since he’d been living in his car for a week, saving money for food and gas.

He was surprised when she smiled. “Yep, just passing through, on my way to Beaver Dam.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Didn’t expect that you would. It’s a tiny spot on the map in the middle of nowhere.” She took a sip of her coffee. He tried his. It was barely cool enough to drink.

“So how long ago did you lose her?” 

He stopped with his cup in mid-air and looked over at her. “Excuse me?”

“I lost my Danny a little over a year ago. I’m still getting used to it.”

“It’s that obvious?”

“It is if you know what to look for, and I do. Your wife, how did she die?”

He drank some coffee as a stall. “Three years ago, in a car accident.” He didn’t elaborate. It was the first time he said anything about that night in over two years.

“Danny died of cancer.”

“Shit man, that’s a hell of a way to go.”

“It is. It was painful and slow, and there was almost nothing left of him in the end.”

“I’m sorry.” He paused. “Lois was quick. They said she died instantly when the car hit us.” This was the first time he’d said her name in so long that it felt foreign to him.

“You were there?”

“Eh, yes — I was driving. A car t-boned us on her side, and she died instantly. I barely managed to survive…” he let it tail off.

“Man, I’m sorry.”

 “At least it was quick and painless for her.”

 “Yeah, there’s that,” she conceded. “By the way, I’m Amy.” She held out her hand.

 “James.” He took it. It felt weird holding another woman’s hand. Weird, but nice.

They sat and talked for a while, finally moving to a booth in the back. More coffee ordered, then food. This time — real food. Not the crap he’d been eating at drive-throughs and the like. At some point, he glanced at his watch. It was noon. He’d been there for three hours.

One thing led to another. He decided to go with her to Beaver Dam, at least for a while.

One day became another day.

They spent many hours talking about their respective losses. He was finally able to describe the horrible feeling of loss and terror at realizing his Lois was no longer with him. The sense of uselessness and how his will to even try slowly gave way to thoughts of suicide. This was the first time he’d uttered those thoughts and tried to put his feelings into words.

Amy understood and said she’d gone through much of the same thing herself. She had never spoken a word about what was happening inside her. She had come to Beaver Dam because she needed to get away from everything and everyone she knew. To start over. Like him.

In the next few weeks, they found a small two-bedroom apartment to live as roommates, and new jobs. Beaver Dam was ripe with new places to explore and he felt himself coming back to life again. Slowly, a little at a time, but he was healing. The times he was away from Amy, he found himself thinking about her. Lois still popped into his head daily but now it didn’t hurt as much. 

Gradually, he realized that he was developing feelings for her. Feelings he hadn’t had since he’d first met Lois all those years ago. For the first time in three years, he wanted to get up in the morning. To see Amy. That realization that he was falling in love startled him. He never expected to feel anything about anyone ever again. Yet, there it was. 

Lois would also still be there in his mind and heart, but Amy was giving him a new reason to live again. Three months after they moved to Beaver Dam, while sitting at the local diner over their usual cups of coffee, he said it.

“I never thought I would say this again to anyone, but, Amy, I love you.” He couldn’t believe he’d said those words to another person. 

Amy put her fork down and looked at him. “James, I love you too. I didn’t think it was possible after Danny, but yeah, I’m in love with you too.”

They sat and talked for a while longer as was their habit when in a diner, but this time, not dwelling on the past but looking toward the future. They had helped each other through the pain of losing someone they both cared deeply about and came out on the other side in love.

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