It's the Friday after thanksgiving, the day we stop being grateful and start getting grabby. Hours ago, several hundred miles to the east of us, a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by a horde of eager shoppers. K and I don't know this yet. We are familiar, in a general way, with the havoc want can wreak: each of us has wanted, ruinously, in the past. Still, walking miles through the cold, clear afternoon, we want profligately. We want tea.
We fight half-heartedly about where to go. K is the oldest friend I can still claim as my friend, if friends nose in and out of each others' lives and do not ask permission. She wants a teapot, some ceremony. I want to sit and press something hot to my bottom lip. I veto the coffee house where I have never had a good time, not once, not even with people I like, and also the coffee house run by sleek-maned evangelicals. We end up at the same place I always end up, the place with poor service and mediocre coffee and walls and walls of books.
The tea comes in mason jars. The waitress says they are out of what I want. They are out of what I maneuver myself to want instead. My third choice is lavender-flavored and scalding and as I taste it I feel the deep, unwanted upswell of love. My friend is deciphering the subtle signals of the hand of fate and I am talking smack. She asserts she has never been cheated on Ebay. I remind her that she has been cheated on Ebay, and how. I talk about what I wanted in high school. She informs me I wanted something else entirely.
Outside, the wind is draining from the day. There's no one in the coffee house, just a sad man hunched over a mug; the town has emptied out. I love the way the holiday gapes, the sky's wide-open mouth. Writers have tried to convince us that memory dwells in the body, that we, like trees, carry within us the mark of our past. K tells me I'm talking crap. The past is something we carry for each other, a way we share the load.