By: Brian Burmeister
“What am I looking at?” Cynthia asks. “Who is this? I’m confused.”
A moment earlier, Tonya slid her phone in front of her friend, saying only, “I’ve got something to show you.”
The two women sit in the back corner of the overly bright, overly crowded café. Their usual spot. Coffees steaming between them.
Tonya says, “Who do you think it is?”
Cynthia’s eyes explode momentarily, recognition lighting up her face. “This is Tim? The Tim? Okay. So why am I looking at this?”
Nodding, Tonya says, “Scroll up. It’s important you see who sent it.”
Cynthia obliges. A moment later: “Heidi something. I don’t know who this is.”
“What?” Cynthia asks, both loudly and smiling.
“His mother sent it to me.”
“Okay? I’m back to being confused. I didn’t think you two talked.”
“We don’t. I bet we haven’t spoken in three, four months. Even then, we weren’t exactly friends.”
Cynthia scrolls back through the message. Staring at the screen, she says, “There’s no note with this.”
“She sent you a picture of her son with no text. At all. No subject line or anything.”
“Why would she do that?” Cynthia asks, sliding the phone across the table.
Shrugging, Tonya says, “That’s what makes this so crazy. So good. Far as I can see, it has to be one of two things. One, she’s shoving this in my face. I know you never met him, but he’s lost a lot of weight. Like a lot of weight.”
“So you think the picture says, ‘Idiot, look what you could have had.’”
“I do, I really do,” she says, squinting at the phone. “I’m going to be honest, in this picture he’s looking good.”
“So what is she, like his protector or something?” Cynthia asks. Beating up the mean kids on the playground.”
“They’re best friends, so I’m guessing—”
“Wait, wait—” Cynthia frantically waves her hands through the air. “She’s his best friend?”
“Wow. Really? You never told me that.”
“Do you blame me? It’s weird,” she points at the screen.
“Of course it’s weird, that’s why you should have told me. He’s 30, right?”
“No wonder you ended it.”
“But he is handsome,” she sighs. “I mean, even with that cowboy hat.”
“Do not get back with him.”
“I’m joking. I am. I am. But that’s really the second thing I think this could be.”
“So Mommy shows you her newly hot son in some strange attempt to lure you back to him.”
“I’d give it all of one-percent, but yeah,” Tonya says. She locks her phone and slides it back into her purse. “Right after we broke up, those first few weeks, he was bad. Texts in the middle of the night bad. Emails. Phone calls. He even wrote a four-page letter.”
“Ah. True love.”
“He’s all yours,” Tonya says, feigning a laugh. “But you know what I mean. Let’s pretend he’s still hung up on me. Still talks about me. Pines for me. All that love sick pup kind of crap. Mommy sees this. She knows this. Thinks to herself: Self, let’s end this suffering. Take some action.”
Cynthia says, “That would be goddam nuts,” grabbing her coffee.
“It would be, and that’s why I’d give it one percent,” mimicking her action, Tonya picks up her own cup with both hands.
The two women drink from their coffee for the first time since the conversation began.
After some time, Cynthia asks, “So what now? What are you going to do?”
“Nothing,” Tonya says, “I can’t write her. Certainly can’t write him. Nothing to do but go crazy thinking about this.”
And Cynthia, eyebrows raised, says, “I guarantee that’s what Mommy wanted.”