The Coincidence Cafe on 13th
Street was open. Yes. Of course it was, it was Friday. Think, Think! The orange doors loomed closer, illuminating the chaos of the night strewn with the day's abandoned rubble. Devi
's day had been filled with such sad craziness, and the fact that this distress
was singular to her only deepened her suffering. Or maybe it wasn't just the adversity of the day, but this week, or perhaps this year, that bore down upon her. However it fell, she needed to be alone and to reason with herself.
Devi knew, as she sat down quickly in the same carpeted corner she had claimed for months, that she was about to have a conversation with the boy across the room
. Being alone isn't supposed to mean talking to the boy across the room, or even the old woman next to you if there happens to be one, but tonight it was unavoidable. She knew this in the same way that the brown vintage shoes she was wearing made her notice the two old sailors playing chess
to her right, or the balding artist ordering an espresso between the art deco lamp and the counter to her left. They were somehow intensely real today, but no more so than the irrepressible premonition that Wings was about to talk to her. Yes, new shoes and bad weeks always had that clairvoyant effect.
At the opposite rim of the worn yellow carpet, the wings lay folded in sleek symmetrical lines down his spine. The boy's hair was the color of northern ocean water, and a thin wraith of steam drifted, ceiling-bound, from behind its choppy ripples. "So angels drink coffee," she thought. "No wonder it is so addictive; a little contraband from heaven
can only taste divine. Thank you, oh celestial smuggler."
After a pristine moment of angel-gazing, Devi was seized with laughter. Her chestnut curls spilled over her arms, and she concealed her amusement behind them. She had the feeling that she had never seen this winged boy in her life, and it struck her as odd. In fact, the notion was so ridiculous that everything in her mind seemed to have ceased in protest and then begun anew. The minute details in the space of rug between her feet made her acutely aware of a sensation like that of a warm amber fountain gushing outward into every limb.
White was all she saw when she lifted her head a moment later. The white of a room with pure plaster walls like the ones in her fourth story bedroom. White infused with a glow that came from everywhere with no actual source. White the way she had always imagined dying, and now she briefly wondered if she had. Was it inauspicious to die in a corner on a yellow carpet? Before the idea could sink in, the white wings folded down in front of her, revealing once more the chess players and the man at the counter, receding hairline, black beret, and boots planted firmly on the yellow carpet.
Wings peered at Devi with amber-colored eyes over the rim of his latte as a single white feather made its way absently to the floor. She wasn't entirely sure how he had ended up in front of her instead of across the room, but it wasn't the kind of day that let you question things, especially when "things" involved attractive winged boys. This one's gaze seemed warm, or was it only the
steam drifting in front of his eyes
"It's hard." He said this with calm assertation, thoughtfully biting the rim of his cup, still peering at her. "Everything is."
"Yes, and if you like your shoes it's all a bit more real, isn't it," she philosophized. Talking to him was immediately like talking to yourself the way you always wished it would be. Not stuffy with the same perspective going round and round, but intuitive, and perfect in its collective intuitions.
"Real isn't perfect
," he said simply. His lips shaped themselves into a depthful smile as he set the cup down.
Devi's eyes wrapped their attention around the smooth baby-blue porcelain. The cup was real, very solidly existing, chipped and worn and unwilling to compromise. The sunny yarns of the carpet around it were matted and discolored and, by virtue of their faults, very real indeed. "Real
isn't perfect," her inner dialog echoed, "real isn't perfect." Though she tried to stall the next logical step in this line of reasoning, her mind trudged despairingly forward. "Perfect isn't real."
She let her eyes dizzy
themselves in the swirling brown coffee. When she looked up he would be gone, she knew. Just like every prior attempt at self-revolution, this remedy too would fade
away. Coffee was as much of the divine as she could expect to keep. "Fly back up to heaven," she whispered bitterly
"Not up," came the level response, though not from the place where Wings had sat, but from somewhere closer, somewhere in the vicinity of thought.
" she breathed. "You're only real in my mind?"
"Perfect," came the voice. "Only perfect." And with these words, her words, Devi could almost imagine the warmth of wings folding around her. The room looked clear and real and beautiful in a strangely amber-colored way as she took in every detail of the carpet, the counter, the artist now seated at a side table, her precious vintage shoes, and, to her right, the ancient chess players. Her eyes fell upon one of them as his weathered lips parted to speak to her.
"Nice feathers, angel girl