We met to discuss homework. Martin hunched up his shoulders and gestured with his pen. Section three was to be rewritten and this was nonnegotiable, he blurted out quickly enough to go back to grinding down his chicken salad sandwich. As he spoke, the bits of chicken and mayo glittered on his teeth. Soon that flesh would be dismembered and turned to liquidy mush by the inevitable clockwork of his jaws. Anne was sipping her coffee, her jittery hands scalded by the wide, fat cup filled to the brim with the black of an abyss. "Perhaps we could help with the rewrite," she offered hesitantly, rubbing her coffee cup and bathing her lower face in the steam that would certainly melt the downy hair on her pink, drooping chin. "No, it's his responsibility," Martin insisted. I clutched at the breast section of my thin windbreaker, stretching the fabric forward so that it puffed out. Turning my head sideways to glance at her, I sputtered out: "What is the coffee like?" Anne set it down on the insipid flesh-toned wooden table and raised her hands in front of her face. They seemed a bit reddened. Her eyes were morbidly concentrated on her palms. Whose fate was she trying to read?
"It's got a malty taste to it," Anne said in a reluctant voice, as if she were hearing her own words and questioning their meaning. But then her lips spread out in a narrow grin and her eyes beamed a bright, glaring light in my direction. "But it's also a got a gritty flavor to it; like soybeans." Before her words reached me, my eyelids fell like shutters to protect my contracting pupils. I could hear a whoosh sound as Anne's hands slowly but surely gravitated towards the coffee cup, drawn and pulled in to each other like magnets. The fat white cup scraped against the table as she pushed it towards me. "Try it for yourself," she warbled in a breathy voice and sighed. I didn't say anything. Instead, I turned to Martin and my eyes rested for a few seconds on his green hat but then moved down to his chicken salad crushing jaws whose efficient chomping I couldn't help but admire. Martin bared his teeth to briefly utter, "Drink it." I looked down at the backside of my hand and imagined crevices and welts in my skin gnashed by the sharp points of his teeth. It was rather his uncouth paws that I felt pressing down on my shoulders from behind about two minutes later. Chuckling, Martin enunciated in a bravado tone: "I've changed my mind; we are going to help you edit chapter three. You could use some guidance.." I quickly got up and grabbed the coffee cup by the handle. The burning sensation pulsated up my hand all the way to my shoulder. I abruptly set the cup down and could almost feel the table shake beneath its weight. She startled in her seat and jerked in her chair.
Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out a small camera and set it down on the table next to the coffee cup. Sure enough, she and I were to embrace once again. As I hugged her from behind, her eyes were closed and I could only hear her breathing. Slumped in her chair, she was too comfortable and too impassive. "Take a picture of us," I yelled to him, surprised by the rashness of my commanding voice. Wasn't I going to say it quietly? The ash dark abyss of the coffee reflected the camera; it seemed like the camera was floating in the cup and dissolving in the liquid like a cube of sugar.
As Martin snapped pictures of us over and over again, his jaws kept vibrating although the sandwich has long been consumed. Between the flashes, I could see that his eyes were lost in a flurry of random, frantic motion. His eyelids were flickering all too rapidly; the dimples in his cheeks seemed deep as if carved out by a knife. I wanted to stop the motion in that face and set it at peace. I briefly thought about how nice it would be to dip his head in a small basin filled with cool water. "We are just friends, me and her," I wanted to reassure him. But outside of me and her, the relations between us have taken on a life of their own. And I simply couldn't understand them.