by Emily K. Michael
“They’ve put up an umbrella here,”
he says, leading me to the secluded table
on the upstairs patio. Shade
is plentiful in our usual spot
without the addition of a new
umbrella. But, I ask, can we
ever have too much? “We
can in death,” he affirms. “Here,”
he bends to collect my new
flown napkin, surveys the table
and takes his now familiar spot
across from me. I shade
my eyes and unpack my lunch, a shade
of variation on a daily theme we
both cherish: apples, bread, cheese. He spots
my apple, larger than his own, and here
expels his frustration. Fingers drum the table,
as he objects to every feature of my fruit. Nothing new.
But each lunch serves up new
revelations—he doesn’t like tuna or mayonnaise. Just a shade
of mustard on his store-bought turkey. The table
creaks and sways, wind picking up as we
sit rapt in conversation, happy to be here.
Mild sunlight slants over the balcony railing, a spot
light trained on others lunching—can their spot
compare to ours? They’re drunk on the new,
obsessed with the best they can buy here.
Fast food, speed gadgets, quick chats, now a shade
less appealing—purchase luster worn thin. We,
on the other hand, like the feel of our quiet table,
our well-worn friendship, sun-warmed. This table
beckons intense exchange and a spot
of lighthearted banter. Laughing and comfortable, we
forget to keep time, making all ideas new
through meetings in the shade.
Spring air fills our lungs and holds us here.
At the table under the umbrella, we determine anew
the value of illumination. In air and shade,
we seek a spot to plant our meaning—here.
Plump under plaid, the crook
of his arm fills
my palm, fits
to my fingers, pressing
the back of my hand
snug against his side.
I feel the round rolling
of his hip as we walk
his movements predicting
what mine will be. Easy grace
in the slow upward swell
of his thigh, the message carried
past his abdomen to his ribs
where my hand nestles
against the soft cotton of his shirt.