“Coffee Shops” Fiction. Based on a True Moment in Time.

“Coffee Shops”

Fiction. Based on a True Moment in Time.

by Lynn Duncan

This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

I have always had this ideal image of coffee shops in my head. The hushed conversations, soft entrancing music. Lulling patrons away from the crazy that is outside. Overly sugary drinks. The clacking of keyboards and the hushed conversations. I hope to look like I belong.

I walk up with a confidence I don’t feel.

No outlets available and the rising panic of “Oh I wonder where she is… will she even recognize me anymore? Will I recognize her?”

I place my order. A white chocolate mocha with coconut milk instead of regular. Because I need another cup of coffee. Sweet enough to send me to the moon. I see her. She looks much the same as she always did. Burgundy hair with a straightness and a thickness I’ve always envied. I remember how she always loved how curly my hair was and commented on it every time I told her I wanted to trade hair.

Blue eyes. Startlingly blue. Beautiful. Like the PNW when its not gross outside. You know, when its freezing but the Sun’s out and so are we. I don’t say anything yet. Not until I have the soup bowl sized cup in my hands. Not until I am trying my best not to spill it and make my way over to the table I knew she would pick. By the window. Back towards the back door, facing the front.

I set down the cup spilling some of it on the table and find myself in her embrace. For the first time in years I feel normal. I knew deep down she was supposed to be there. Filling the pieces of my life with light, and a little dark. Just as I knew I gave her the same.

I relax just a little. Still half expecting her to slap me and ask me what took so long to reach out to her. But she doesn’t.

I learn she messaged me on Instagram but I never got it. Nov. 23rd apparently. She shows me the message and I am fighting tears. I had wanted on so many occasions to reach out. Then she tells me about her daughter.

I am floored. I had suspected. I still would stalk her Instagram and LinkedIn profile but it never actually hit me that this beautiful little girl was hers. I wondered if it belonged to the person whose red ribbon tattoo matched hers. But I didn’t ask. Too stubborn. And she asked me not to. So I let the tattoo go and she launched into her tale. Full of monsters, and battles, and heartbreak and worry, and doubt and fear and yet. Above all of it, in spite of all of it my sister survived. Persevered. Loved a small person into existence.

“Say Hi to Auntie T.” Were words that she spoke to her daughter a week later. Words that I never thought she would say. Words that I didn’t want to assume were true.


I remember learning about the atrocities of WWII sitting next to my sister in class. Not my blood sister mind you. I have two of those. One older by nearly a decade and one younger by 4 years. I had no idea that there was so much violence in the world. Even 60 years before. I had known about the civil rights movement. Though the peaceful filters of childhood. Until I got my hands on books.

I felt too deeply even then. I spent days crying over things that I had not witness first hand but felt deeply. Things that I could imagine. Death and I had been courting a long time. We grew hand in hand from the moment I was born. He still visits me. When it’s dark, when I’m unsuspecting he steals the breath from my lungs and the strength from my muscles. You would think after so much time together I would be used to it. But he catches me off guard even now.

Which is why I am shaking. Over the bistro table that shifts every time I do. Talking about my brother. How he passed from this plane on to the next in violent spectacular fashion. The voices in his head too much to bear. He fights death. Doesn’t want to go alone so he tries to take my sister with. But death takes him just the same. “My sister is alive.” I say. Hands shaking. I try to ignore it. “I only lost one sibling and not two.”

I shake on the inside when I explain how learning what consent was shifted my perception of what I thought was something else. Something I had experienced. Something awful. My no’s being ignored. ‘Please take me home.’ ‘Let me out of the car’ ‘ Will you take me home after?’ I wanted to die then. I wanted to make myself strong enough to never be ignored again. So I turned back to the person that never ignored me. Who always took me seriously. Eventually I told him. ‘I wish I knew who he was, because if I ever find him again I will kill him.’ I felt safe. Violence always made me feel safe. Knowing I could handle myself always made me safe. Apparently not safe enough.

Violence has a way of protecting. It also has its place in breaking families too. People.

I wonder even now, how we could have ever thought that my brother was using again. Voices in his head. Not heroine induced dreams. But we were angry. I wish I had called him.

Stolen Breath

My throat closes easier now. The allergic reactions are swift. The panic rising in my blood. I hear my heart beat unsteadily in my ears. I always wonder when death plays chicken with me. Am i going to pass out this time? Can i make it to the ER without taking the $350 drug that I’m told will keep me alive? I’m brave. Or i Try to be. Inside i’m screaming. Angry that I can’t protect myself from this. I see the panic on my sisters face. She ran from her office down the hall to the adjoining emergency room. But every time I see her my heart rate spikes. I see the nurses in the hall, a team of them gather the crash cart materials. They stand at the ready and my older sister looks horrified. I tell her I love her,and that I’m excited to see her which is why my heart rate is so fast. Faster than it should be.

I try my best to put on a brave face for her. I need her to stay calm. So I can stay calm. ‘Yogic breathing’ the attending nurse tells me.

I want to slap the man. I told them I had taken the steroids prescribed to me. I told him I was doing okay. ‘I want to give you the steroids and EPI anyway. So that way you’re not afraid of it if it happens again.’ I acquiesce. It can’t be that bad. And if it is that bad I’m already in the hospital.

I sit in the emergency room bed. Freezing. Heart rate too high. Death in the corner. Of course. I flip him off and try to sleep.

‘It’s like you ran a marathon for 7 hours, N-. GO home, take it easy.’

Husband looks worried. I know he won’t sleep tonight. He never does when death comes too close. I don’t eat but I sleep. After reassuring my family that their smallest girl is fine. Just an allergic reaction. Nothing super serious.

She and I knew what asthma was like together. We could count scars from hospital visits. Name complicated medications better than most kids our age. Kindred souls bound together on playground so out of breath sharing an inhaler.

We decided together in that coffee shop, that we would be done with not talking to each other. Done with hiding behind what we think the other wants to hear. Old wounds soothed with a balm of understanding and renewed trust.

There are lots of different types of love. Romantic, familial, platonic. All of them we had seen each other through. But ours, the strange way we predict each other’s thoughts, talk each other off the ledge of suicidal thoughts, self harming thoughts, I’m drowning in stress thoughts. The yin to my yang. The balance that keeps my heart steady.

Leave a Reply

Write a comment