Corona Cafe
Mary Miller

It was fall again but only cold inside buildings. In the trees, white-winged doves made sounds like dogs whimpering. They flew down to pick through the fresh dirt.

I played a game in which I had to step on every pecan I saw and if one didn’t crack, I lost. I stepped on leaves and liked their crunch. I stepped on a pecan still in its outer shell and didn’t crack it. I tried again, and again—I had no rules in regards to the number of times I could try.

The coffee shop was in a strip mall, between a nail shop and a bar. I got a cup of tea and sat in a chair facing the window and let him ask me questions. I didn’t like puns or haiku. I didn’t drink coffee in the mornings. I’d left my husband because I was never going to be the person I wanted to become. I didn’t ask him anything and at some point this became apparent. I liked his eyes, though, and I liked to imagine kissing him. But when he finally kissed me, I’d place his hand on my breast.

I took a sip of tea, touched the flimsy material of my new dress. It was olive green like half the things in my closet. He was a friend of a friend of a friend, the friendships shaky. Did this mean I could invite him over? I pictured myself sitting on the kitchen counter, kicking my legs and drinking a glass of wine while he chopped vegetables. I imagined him saying I was beautiful. I wondered if we could skip the part where I didn’t know him and then thought I knew him and found out I didn’t, the part where I would be deceived and then forgive him.

Mary Miller is the author of a story collection, Big World. Her work can be found in McSweeney’s Quarterly, Ninth Letter, American Short Fiction, Mississippi Review, Oxford American, and others. She lives in Austin, where she is a Michener Fellow at the University of Texas, and serves as Fiction Editor of Bat City Review.

Art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett