It sounded like a symphony. A deliciously ordinary and extravagant symphony. It was just a plain Wednesday morning during the final breaths of summer, him and I were spending the day before the next semester of university. The sounds of jubilance that filled the Market Street Grill sang to the heart like a welcoming air—The servers moving in rhythm and care, the chefs laughing and enjoying their craft, the people chattering away in a cacophony of splintered conversations: how you doin? that’s why I don’t drink coffee before bed anymore. did you see the Phillies game last night? There was a ho hum ho hum all around and the cash register went Shring! Shring! And the clitter clatter of the spoons, knives, and forks going clink clink in dissonant harmony with the clang of the mugs and drowned out polyphonic unison of people. And It was him and I together. I liked the way in which Kody took the lead with his robust swagger. Table for 2 sounded much more melodious than table for 1, or just 1.
“Wow this is a really nice place,” Kody ran his fingers through his hair, adjusting it so the top angled to the right. Sharp cat like hazel eyes darted around slowly taking in the Americana aesthetic, Paintings were hung all over the walls, not too many though, as they filled the space respectably. All the paintings had a 1960’s vibe to them, being distressed or tie-dyed. Heroes and celebrities from the Beatles, Mohamed Ali, Jesus, Chase Utley, and John Lennon (just him not the rest) all on the walls like a modern time capsule not yet oxidized and wasted by each passing second. “Everyone’s sober.” Cody gave a light laugh as him and Thomas were seated.
“What do you mean by that? ‘Everyone’s sober?’ Is that a bad thing?”
“No, no. Not at all. It’s just everyone is hungover at Nudy’s. This joint may just be down the street, but it feels like a real upgrade. You said you come here all the time?”
“Sometimes by myself, or with my boss. She’s the one who introduced me to this place. I think it’s nice and simple.” Thomas smiled. “Please, let’s not make ourselves to be the Prince and Pauper.”
If Kody were the smooth romantic type, he would have said but you are a prince. Unfortunately, he was neither smooth nor romantic. He did try, however.
“Nudy’s is a bit of a further walk for me anyway. That’s why I usually come here to eat.”
Both young men were seated by an upbeat waitress. She moved in time with the fast-paced nature of the café and briskly bought both Kody and Thomas one coffee and water each. Behind them was a couple who were not talking to one another. Thomas found this odd. The couple looked irritated. A man was reading the daily news by the counter, and families were coming and going, followed by couples young and old.
“My favorite part about this place are the mugs,” Thomas said with a smile, holding up a homely mug with the phrase “Live. Laugh. Love.” On it. “No other place makes me feel more at home. Everyone gets their own unique mug. Look! There’s a pug on yours!” A giggle escaped the young man’s lips.
“That’s adorable,” Kody said with a gentle smile, not letting his sight off the brown eyes and brown hair of Thomas. “I’m more of a cat person myself though, but I’ll let this slide.” Kody grinned with his wide grin. He always spoke with a sarcastic tone, yet there was always sincere warmth in his timbre. “So, we can spend the day together, but I need to get home by like 8ish. My ma wants me to move some boxes around the textile shop. And I gotta babysit my pa.”
“Babysit your dad? That’s funny. Why?”
“Cause he’s an idiot.” A harsher tone took over the amiableness of Kody’s voice. His thin brows furrowed, yet his eyes were filled with care, not hatred. “He got in a car accident from being drunk, and now he’s ‘useless’ around the house ‘cause he broke his legs and left arm. Still I gotta give him props for still working from his computer.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Thomas cast his eyes down into his coffee. Kody gave a nervous laugh. With great futility he took quick glances around the café, noticing the peculiar couple, man and woman, sitting behind he and Thomas. The couple was exchanging no words and not even looking at one another. They were sitting there, waiting for the waitress to supply all the noise.
“I don’t really talk about my family all too often. Heh.” Kody put his arm around his back and used his hand to feel a clump of hair. “It doesn’t matter, really. Anyway, how’ve you been? How’s your research been going?”
“Oh, it’s been going well. I’ve been taking a break from it though. I’ve recently been reading a lot of poetry. Whitman, Stevens, Eliot. A random assortment I know but those are who I currently have collections. I have one of D. H. Lawrence too, but I haven’t really read too much of it.” Thomas swirled the remains of the coffee in his mug.
“More coffee?” The waitress asked.
“Yes, please.” The waitress poured another stream of the hot liquid to fill the vessel. “Thank you.” Thomas took a moment to reflect before letting silence hold the table. He noticed the strange couple again, who still seemed to have not said a single word to one another. Now they were both eating, not looking or speaking to one another. Together but alone. Upon hearing about Kody’s parents, he realized he didn’t know much of anything about them or about Kody’s family. An unknown, yet to be named, feeling encompassed him.
Conversation eventually returned to normal. Thomas thought that if he kept asking for a refill of coffee that they would never have to leave. It was as if eternity could be contained in the small mug. If they had no reason to leave yet, then they could keep talking, they could stay together. The moment could not pass for it would not pass. Yet time kept pushing forward as a steady march of people came and went. Eventually the couple who said no words and exchanged few glances were replaced by a younger couple, having a grand time. The man reading the newspaper by the counter was now replaced by another man reading the newspaper. A new family sat in the table diagonally from Thomas and Kody. This family had two children, both parents were on their phones. The grandfather was talking to the son speaking of something from the past.
And so, time passed, like it always did. The day felt warm and fair, not a second seemed wasted. The weeks prior had been full of rain—sometimes downpours that led to floods. The local dealership’s cars began to float away after one storm. Thomas’ family at home suffered a hit with their basement being flooded. The rain seemed to wash everything away. Each day the sun would be hidden from view and the sky would only continue to cry. Some days the rains would feel like a strange comfort—the day where one could snuggle with a blanket and a good book. Other days it felt as if the rain were mocking the land, Thomas felt this especially when walking home one day from his therapy session. The sky opened without warning, unleashing a deluge unto the earth. Never had Thomas been so wet from a storm. He lamented not being able to drive, yet he figured a car would have been just as dangerous in that situation, though he’d still be dry. He thought of Kody and what he must have endured. Each time he stole a glance at the young man he wondered if the rain had washed anything away from his life. Despite knowing each other for over a year now, he still knew little about Kody’s personal life—only bits and pieces to create a lacking mosaic. Kody never divulged deep truths about his family life, he kept conversation mostly to his interests, work, or current events. Of course, Kody took a deep and passionate interest in Thomas’ life. The moments when Thomas reflected on how little he knew of Kody’s life he felt regret, even shame. He spent so much time talking about himself and his struggles that he often forgets to ask Kody.
Yet for this day Thomas wanted to remain positive and upbeat. He wanted to reflect the sunshine in all its glory. He and Kody took a walk around town and eventually found a park where the sat and talked the afternoon away. They sat in a small gazebo that overlooked the foliage of the park. The sun lit a picturesque landscape of flowers, green leaves, green and brownish grass, and a little stream that ran along a small divot in the ground. Swept in conversation there was a pause when both were quiet. Thomas saw this as his chance to try and ask Kody about more personal matters, yet in his mind he felt conflicted. Would it be awkward after all this time? Would it seem sudden? Would it bring down the mood of the afternoon? Only questions entered his mind as evening hugged the day and whispered that time was passing.
“It’s getting late,” Kody said, his face becoming a silhouette to the backdrop of the coming sunset. “I’ll walk you home.”
“Oh, yeah. You’re right. I wish these days would never have to end.” Thomas moved forward ahead of Kody. It was at that moment that Kody wished he had the courage to confess to Thomas the feelings the held. He sighed, knowing he wouldn’t say a word.
The sky had remnants of orange and red as the sun went to sleep. The warm air rustling in the leaves brought about the feeling of summer’s end. All that was left of summer was but a fading whisper of honeysuckle. A weak meow made itself heard from a small alleyway. Kody paused, reached into his left jean pocket, and pulled out a little bag with at treats in it. Thomas watched in childish wonder as he saw an alley cat, a small tabby, affectionately approach Kody. With delicate care Kody reached his hand out with treat in palm, the tabby licked it up with no apprehension. Kody then picked up the tabby and began petting him, the tabby let out soft purrs and slurred meows.
“I’ve seen this little guy around time to time. I’ve been taking care of him from afar, bringing him water or food when I see him. When I first met him, he was so scared that he wouldn’t let me near him, but he softened up as I started bringing him food, and when I took care of a wound he had on his lil’ paw,” Kody said in a soft, sonorous, dreamlike tone. Thomas watched the fading embers of sunlight flick sparks in Kody’s eyes.
“Have you ever thought about taking him home?” Thomas asked.
“I’ve thought about it all the time. Every day to be honest.”
“Then why haven’t you?”
“Well, because of my Pa.” Kody’s face might a slight cringe. He frowned. Thomas felt a rush of emotion overtake him. He felt insensitive, rude, prying.
“I’m so sorry I didn’t even think about it like that. I’m so sorry. Really, I am.”
“Huh? Why are you sorry?”
“Because, I didn’t even think about why you wouldn’t want that cat in your house! I didn’t realize that he might not be safe if your father is drinking all the time.”
“What? No. No!” Kody began to laugh. Thomas gave him a confused look.
“W-Why are you laughing?”
“I’m laughing cause you’re so dumb!”
“Excuse me! How rude of you Ko-ko! I’m not dumb!” Thomas yelled in an indignant yet playful manner.
“Hey! How many times do I have to tell you to stop calling me Ko-ko!”
“Probably more than a million. You know I’ll never stop.” Thomas gave a mischievous smile.
Kody laughed. “Heh. Well, yeah. You are dumb. But in a cute way.”
“Don’t call me cute!” Thomas’ face became red. “Don’t be silly.”
“Anyway. I meant that I can’t bring this little cat home because my dad is allergic to cats.”
“Oh. But I thought he had a drinking problem. You said your mom wanted you home with him.”
“Well, he used to drink heavily. But, he’s been sober for 6 months now, since the accident. He realized that he was lucky to be alive. When he got out of the hospital he asked to be put into rehab in order to finally work through his problems. He couldn’t handle the thought of leaving me, Ma, and the store behind. He said that ‘if I don’t change then I’m just gonna keep hurtin’ the folks I care about. So many times I say I don’t care about myself, and that I care more about my loved ones. Hell, I learned that if I care about my loved ones I should care about myself too!’ He got all righteous too, he’s real stupid like that. Stupid, but sincere. My Ma just doesn’t trust him yet. She tells me to look after him at night cause she thinks he’s gonna grab a drink and break his sobriety. He’s not happy about it, but he says he hasn’t earned Ma’s trust back yet, so he accepts it.”
“I’m so sorry that I don’t know anything about you!”
“H-hey that’s not true! What’re you talking about?”
“I talk so much and tell you all about me and my life, but I never give you the chance to share. I never give you the chance to open up! I’m always just selfishly taking all the time!” Thomas restrained tears.
“Always so dramatic. Heh. Another cute thing about you.”
“Wha-What? Excuse me! I’m pouring my heart out here trying to apologize and you—
“Shush.” Kody placed his finger over Thomas’ mouth. “You don’t have to apologize about anything. I like when you talk. I like when you share about your life. It’s not your fault, and you’re not as self-absorbed as you think.”
“Shush,” Kody said giving his sarcastic grin. “It’s true. I need to share more about my life. I just choose not to. I don’t like talking about it. But, you know, I feel I can start trusting you with the details of my life.
“Hey! What did I say?”
“And what did I say?” Both young men stood ay amused odds. Thomas reached over and picked up the Tabby from Kody’s arms. “I have an idea. Since you can’t take this little guy home with you, I’ll bring him back to my place. I can give him shelter, and you can come over to visit all you want.”
“Thomas, you would really do that?”
“Of course. This cat is important to you, and I want to help take care of him. I want to give him a home.” Thomas looked at the cat in the eyes. The Tabby purred in content. “What’s his name?”
“I haven’t given him one. I didn’t want to get too attached.”
“Well, now you can. And you don’t have to be scared to.”
The two young men stared at one another in the backdrop of the dusk. Streetlamps began to come to life. A gentle wind blew pedals from a nearby wild flower.
“Neoma,” Kody said.
“It’s Greek. It’s mean ‘new moon.’ Or, in this case, a new beginning.”