My joints locked. My eyes itched. My hair bristled. For the first time, she was within reach, and I was me. The first sight I saw was Alex.
I grabbed the fabric tape railing to my side and tightened my throat muscles. My hand hurt. I was in the middle of a coffee shop line. Looked like about the time when I left. I spotted lemon squares- nothing compared to Betti’s cooking. I spied some miniature cupcakes at the end of a stick, and flashed back to one of my last memories before our lives. Seeing the pastry pops reminded me I had just walked in here and spotted the chocolate kind.
My throat was dry. I could use a lemonade, too. I was in the mood for some coffee-shop sweetness after eating Ugali for a week. I didn’t care about artificial ingredients, a lack of home-style love, or even the fact no expertise made it. It was then that I noticed they had a summer-flavored kind of cupcake bite. Didn’t they make that flavor right around when this all began? Did they make it again? Was I back? Was it over?
I restrained my quivering. Was it pain? Was it excitement? It’s been so long since I saw a familiar sight, and even longer since it was in English! I felt like me, I felt at home, and I felt like the chance to talk to Alex was right in front of me. I was certain it was Alexandria. She looked quite different without the burqa, and I’ve mixed her up a few times, but I wouldn’t forget how she held her Diane Goldfarb purse, just like the imitation-Coach bag she toted with her today. They all held their bags the same.
My sunglasses didn’t help, but my gut pushed me. I walked past the cashier and raced to her table. Would she recognize me? She sat beside the window, looking out. It was so quintessentially ‘Alexandria’. I paused, to relish that thoughtful look in this lady’s eyes. Then, I moved. I anxiously looked at her before pulling the seat back. I seemed a bit thin, as the bright, arm-length shirt and gloves didn’t help.
All I could yelp out first, was “Alex!” Her eyes widened, and I felt anxious for only a moment. She looked anxious, as if I solved Rumplestiltskin’s riddle without having been asked.
“Do I know you?” she replied. I felt overwhelming loss and anxiety. How could she forget me? Haven’t we been through this enough? Doesn’t she recognize me? Maybe it’s my hat? Or the sunglasses? Or the gloves? I hastily take them off, whispering a shout as well as I could.
“It’s me, Dexter! Dexter Peterson!” My heart stopped. Her eyes were fixed upon me.
She uttered a shuddering surprise, “That’s quite strange for a woman’s name.” I could feel fate’s cruelty chilling the back of my neck. I looked to my exposed hand… Burned, but feminine.
Coming down from the excitement, I notice pain all over my arms and back. My head was aflame. Pushing back my sleeve, I share with Alexandria a first sight. Burns. Everywhere. My body ignited, as if I was tossed back into the flames for a second roast. My eyes welled up as my strength left me.
I wasn’t me. I wasn’t Dexter today.
Seeing Alex shocked me away from this pain, and now it left. I was defenseless. I fell back into agony. My silent tears ran down to the table. A man whose warm, concerned smile touched me came over and asked about whom I sat down with. He asked why I took off my protection. He introduced himself to Alex, but she excused herself and left. He could see the worry in my eyes, and the pain. He could see the confusion and sadness. He reached out to my shoulder and touched me.
I felt his love, and I felt the scraping of my burn. He told me that fate was cruel, but he still loved me no matter what. I cried out a little bit. He was concerned, and he had a right to be. My gut tumbled, like a washing machine cleaning out the stains this experience left on me. It was then that I noticed me, walking down to take the A train outside the window. Cake pop in his hand.
Who were we?