coffee with mike

When I found out I was pregnant I quit my job. I wanted everything to go right, to be perfect, and working that job six—sometimes seven—days a week for months on end was not only stressful and demanding, it was thankless.

After resigning I spent each day swimming a mile at the college pool down the street, strolling wooded paths with our dog Jack, reading books and practicing my hypnobirthing script. Often, I’d make the scenic drive south to meet up with my friend and former co-worker, Mike, for coffee.

When Mike and I first met it didn’t take long to feel as though we were kindred spirits. Neither one of us truly fit into that particular corporate mold—me in my Frye boots and vintage clothes, Mike with his crisp pink shirts, longish wavy hair and southern drawl, not to mention our kooky natures. We stuck out in a sea of bland khakis, plaid button-downs, twinsets and driving mocks.

Over coffee we’d shoot the shit, laugh and he’d catch me up on friends and crises at work, but we’d focus on family, on his two beautiful children and on my growing belly. There was something soothing and reassuring about his smooth accent and the glint in his eyes. Ours was a platonic relationship steeped in fondness for the person we saw seated opposite us sipping a latte.

Eight weeks before my due date my husband and I got dreadful news during a sonogram: the lateral ventricles in our baby’s brain were enlarged. We traveled to Boston for some exhausting, extensive testing after which the pediatric neurologists recommended we deliver our son five weeks early, by cesarean, to prevent any further brain damage, but not so early as to risk respiratory problems. Utterly despondent, we were sent home to rest up a for couple of weeks before the scheduled delivery.

A few days after our return from Boston I met with Mike for coffee. I could tell by the look on his face when he saw mine that he knew something was terribly wrong. Tears stung my eyes and spilled into the corners of my mouth as I told him the harrowing news about my baby. He reached across the table and held my hand. The coffee shop spun with eager addicts waiting in line to get their fix, others buzzing around small tables talking shop. I remember thinking that the familiar faces sitting behind us probably suspected an illicit affair between Mike and I. Neither of us cared. We held hands for what seemed like a part of forever, his firm grasp saving me from careening over the edge of grief in that black moment, kept me grounded and safe. Mike listened with an intensity in his eyes worthy of the brother that he had become. I felt empathy move through his fingers, saw it well up in his eyes. He told me that he loved me and, with a quiver in my throat, I returned the sentiment. In that moment, we grieved my loss together and forgot about all the rest which, in the scheme of things, didn't really matter.

photo by Michael Kolster

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