Author : Rick Tobin

One unusual woman carved through me—cutting rivers in my desert landscape. I met Rebecca during my second career—writing, which was stalled. My haunt, when hunting ideas and caffeine, was a spartan coffee shop near San Antonio. The Walk-in Bistro had a counter from a previous hair salon. Its four chairs and two tables were mismatched and scarred. That was it. No variety; just black java. Servers brought cups along with sugar dispensers to the shaky tables.

So why go there regularly? It was simply her. She made coffee sublime, even when served a bit cold. I was a chump for redheads, especially with green eyes. Rebecca was coy at first, keeping her petite frame away as I held tight to my table for hours. She finally asked about my continuous typing on my tablet. We talked frequently and she finally joined me twice for dinner. Nothing came of it. Still, she would listen to ramblings about life in the Navy and the ports-of-call I’d visited, as if I was Columbus before Isabella. The time came to move ahead to something more interesting and lasting, even for a semi-retired adventurer.

“Rebecca, I’ve been coming here for over five months. You know about me, but I know little about you, yet I feel like I’ve known you…okay, it’s hokey, but forever.” I stared into her as she endured the other chair at the tiny table. It melted me to see her tilt her head, but she did not smile this time. Her frown surprised me.

“Donnie, you are truly interesting…and if I had more time…but, I simply don’t. Didn’t you ever wonder about the shop’s name?”

She had me, stunned and ready to stuff. What did the name of this hovel have to do with us? “No. I don’t get it. I thought we were hitting it off. It’s the age thing, huh?”

“Hardly. You are so young, but that is not the issue at hand. I’m simply on the way out. We’re only allowed to hold a body for six months. Someone else will enter her when I close her eyes. That’s what walk-ins do. The limit to our time travel is six months. This is my last day. You have shared wonders of your life with me and places I simply couldn’t visit on this trip. It’s a fascinating time to be on Earth…so many possibilities. We work in places where we can hear many stories of travails of the hungry, suffering, fragile…and you are all so fragile now.”

My coffee stuck in my throat. I was so young? I nearly coughed it up. She wasn’t joking. A writer can tell…at least a good one. I panicked, not sure if the caffeine or shock was rocking my chest. She touched my shirt and it calmed. It was warmth unfamiliar to me. She smiled broadly and looked at me with complete content. She rose and walked past the counter into the back room. I quickly followed but couldn’t find her.

Two days after that I heard about her attempted suicide. I found the hospital but their rules blocked me. I haunted the recovery area, but I never saw her again. I never went back to the shop. I couldn’t. My writing picked up after that and I moved away. I started selling my salty military stories after a surprise break from a publisher in San Francisco. She raved about my tales, but then left the publishing house after a few months; still, I was on my way…and wondering.

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