the coffee shop

I’m in Chicago, the city of my birth, on business. It’s cold here- so cold that the wind reaches and shakes your bones. But, thankfully, I’m not experiencing this. I’m in a warm hotel room, basking in it.

That’s when my son calls.

“Michael?” I hear myself saying, almost in a dream.

“Sure, I can be there. Give me 20 minutes.”

I take the clothes I had ironed for the next day and put them on. Looking almost like myself, I run out of the hotel. Then cab down south to the University of Chicago.

We meet at the Medici. The Medici used to be where revolutionaries met. But that was at a previous location. At the current location I came here and smoked endless ashtrays and drank bottomless cups of coffee while in highschool. That was then though. They haven’t allowed smoking in years, and, beseides, I took my last drag years ago.

I see Michael and he’s looking formidable. The way you’d like your son to look.

“How are you?” I ask, but the moment the words leave my mouth I recognize them for as unworthy as they are,

“I’m fine.” He says, while picking up a fry.

I break down then, and the fries look like a mirage of the decisions I could have made. At least to my eyes.

“Did you ever love mom?” he asks.

In that moment, I’m my most honest, when I say, “loving her was never a decision I had to make.”