Poem: Existential Conversations: I. Isolation

“We’re alone,” she says.

“No we’re not,” I responded to her.
I gesture at the café full of people,
she looks down into her empty cup.

“No, I mean we are alone.”

“I’m here with you.” 
I smile and reach for her hand,
withdrawing it she looks out the window.
 
Her eyes are looking at the glass
but not at the street, she is watching
her own reflection in the fluorescent lights. 

“Yes,” she finally says, “you are here.”
We lock eyes, mine betray confusion. 
“You think you know me, and we are close.”

I nod in agreement, my head cocked to the side
waiting for her to continue. 

“But you don’t know me any better
than I know you,” she said. 

“Are you hiding something from me?”
I ask, trying to understand where this was going.
“Do you think I’m hiding something from you?”

“No.” 

She smiled that sad smile where her eyes
Deep and green verge on the edge of tears. 

“We’re all alone as no one can know us. 
At least not as we know ourselves.
There are the in between things.
The unsaid things. 
The intentions that are unspoken,
that are lifted up or crushed by unspoken hope
that someone else will know us
the way we know ourselves.”

Pausing she lifted her coffee cup to her lips,
Forgetting that it was empty but needing a break. 

Unfulfilled, she continued.
“I don’t know what the future holds for us.”

I shrugged, but apparently I was an interruption.

“You don’t know me, and in knowing this
I realized I don’t know you, you’re a stranger.”

This was stranger than our other conversations,
which in and of themselves could get strange. 

“Kiss me, and know me,” I said with a smile. 

“I don’t think I can love a stranger,” she said,
as she placed some crumpled bills on the table
before gathering her umbrella heading for the door. 

I didn’t turn to watch her leave,
I didn’t want her to see the bitter laugh. 

If she can’t love a stranger she’s never going to love.
Herself least of all. 

As I finish my coffee I allow myself to wonder.
Maybe she was right; maybe she didn’t know me. 
Even more so, maybe I was in love with a stranger. 
Perhaps that’s what made it interesting—
Never really knowing what was coming next. 

Putting my money on the the table
the disgruntled waitress walked up,
the one who had left her coffee cup empty
when she needed it the most. 
“Change?”

“No, keep the change, I’ve got enough.”

Copyright © 2021 TJS Sherman All rights reserved.

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