Coffee For Poetry

Entry by: jaguar

25th March 2016

‘Why don’t we meet at Luigi’s,’ Emily said, ‘you know he’s doing that coffee for poetry thing on Monday. We could get a free coffee out of the old scrooge for a nonentity of a poem. You could bring that dreadful one about the swing.’
Lucy clenched her shoulders back as if preparing for another punch. There were just too many things wrong with what Emily had said. Luigi was a sweet, generous, creative man. In fact, he was so sweet, generous and creative Lucy had been seeing him for months. The coffee for poetry day had been her idea. Her Swing poem had just won an award. She might have told Emily that if she could ever get a word in edgeways.
‘Ciao.’ Emily kissed the air in Lucy’s vicinity, making it quiver and strode off towards the tube. Lucy watched her go wondering why she had such selfish friends.
Luigi thought they were human raptors. ‘You have the three of them circling you, making demands on your time. They give you nothing back, Lucy. You must have a cull. Choose just one of them. Invite only one to our wedding.’
Lucy sighed. ‘Emily, Freya and Madeleine have their good points, Luigi. They’ve all been very kind to me at times. How can I choose?’
‘Have a showdown. Do as Emily suggests and invite them all to the coffee for poetry day. Read them your best poem and gauge their reactions. The friend that praises it wholeheartedly, makes you feel good about yourself is the winner. The rest should be embarrassed enough to be, how do you say it, history.’
So Lucy called Madeleine. ‘Would you mind coming along and giving me your opinion? I really value your advice.’
‘Sure. I’ll elasticate my diary, abandon my horde of children with some boring person, find thirty minutes. It’s good to hear from you, kiddo.’
Lucy smiled because she’d been at school with Madeleine, they were almost exactly the same age but Madeleine always treated her as if she was much younger. Then she frowned as she remembered quite how often she’d baby-sat Madeleine’s horde. Did Madeleine think of Lucy as a boring person too? ‘Great. See you at Luigi’s at eleven. Bring a poem you’ve written and the coffee’s free.’
Madeleine barked a laugh. ‘A poem? Self-indulgent nonsense. I haven’t done that since school. Still I’m sure I could churn something out.’
Churn something out? Lucy winced as she put the phone down and thought of the focused hours, even days she devoted to her poems. Of checking every word in the thesaurus to ensure there wasn’t a better one out there, more depth or reach. Of how when somebody understood what her poem meant it felt as if she touched them, fingertip to fingertip.
Lucy’s mood darkened as she rang Freya who would either be in a snitty, haven’t got time to bother with you frame of mind or drone on and on about how dreadful her life was. Lucy wasn’t sure which she preferred. There was no doubt most people would consider Freya difficult, so difficult Lucy suspected she was her only friend.
‘Lucyloo, I was just about to call you, just about to say congratulations, it’s unbelievably good news.’
That was unexpected. Did Freya mean Lucy’s wedding or her poem being published? How did she know? ‘I meant to tell you myself. How did you hear?’
‘I popped in on darling Luigi. haven’t seen him in an age. He was absolutely full of your news. Said you wrote it in Luigi’s.’
‘Oh.’ Lucy felt leavened out, like yeast-less bread, curiously wrong-footed. Why, exactly, hadn’t she told any of her friends about her wedding? Why hadn’t she sent out the invites or decided anything at all? Was the real problem Lucy herself, unable to decide what she wanted in life, rather than her pushy friends? Were they just filling a vacuum? Was Luigi himself filling a vacuum?
Quickly Lucy told Freya about Monday morning and braced herself for the usual litany of complaints. ‘Looking forward to it, Lucy. See you then.’ Lucy switched her phone off feeling strangely disappointed with the conversation. This mood grew and grew like grey clouds over the weekend. Luigi was working so she wrote in the café, looking up at him every now and then. Each time she did it struck her that he was almost a stranger, asking her to give up two of her oldest friends.
What would they have to say about that? About Lucy's feminist principles? Monday she was back at the same table, facing away from the window as if she couldn’t bear to watch the raptors arrive. Her coffee, complete with a chocolate heart, quivered as Madeleine strode in.
‘Morning,’ she thrust a sheet of paper at Luigi, ‘an expresso for my poem please.’
Luigi picked up the sheet and squinted at it. ‘This is, how do you say it? Dreadful, it is dreadful. I hope you don’t mind if the coffee matches.’
Madeleine swayed back, slapped both of her hands on the counter and hooted with laughter. ‘It took me ten minutes. Match that with the coffee and we’ll both be happy. Where’s Madam?’
‘Lucy is over there. I’ll bring your coffee, Maddie, it’s lovely to see you.’
It’s lovely to see her? Did Luigi prefer Madeleine to the other two? It hadn’t occurred to Lucy he might have a favourite. This was what she found so difficult about marrying Luigi, all his thoughts and needs that might be a bit different from her own.
Freya and Emily came in, almost together. Lucy tensed wondering who would take the limelight, she met Luigi’s eyes trying to ask him to be tolerant and accept whatever little drama was about to unfold. He looked away and smiled openly at Freya then Emily. He had such an unexpectedly beautiful smile like the sun had found its expression on earth. They both jittered at his attention then hugged each other.
Lucy’s mouth dropped slightly open in a way Emily had often told her was very unattractive. Luigi waved the girls over towards her. They obeyed him. 'Hello gorgeous.' Emily kissed her and dropped a dozen bags around the table. 'Where's this poem then? I'm dying to read it.'
Really? Lucy couldn't remember the last time Emily had shown any interest in poetry.
'Me too,' Freya said after hugging Madeleine, 'you are so reluctant to share with us normally.'
Luigi was looking across at them, grinning broadly as if this was his idea of a joke. 'In fact', Madeleine said,' we gather there's something else you haven't shared with us.' She turned and smiled at Luigi who waved the unsent wedding invites at her.
Lucy felt as if the earth shifted under her feet. She was the problem, not her generous friends. It was her inability to believe she had a right to this crazy, late in life, happiness. She did have to make a choice but it wasn't between the benign raptors, it was owning Luigi himself.
Their first proper contact had been when he’d read a poem she was working on, over her shoulder. She’d been so focused on it she hadn’t known he was there until he coughed and she jerked round. ‘That’s beautiful, Lucy, so beautiful. It reminds me of my little sister and leaving my family behind. I had to screw my eyes up to stop the tears escaping.’
Lucy swallowed to contain her own emotions. She’d never thought about Luigi as a man with feelings, more a constant point of contact, someone to have a quick joke with, a bit of human warmth. She was struck by his eyes, forget-me-not blue with black lashes as dense as forests. She’d never really looked at him before. ‘Thank you but it’s an early draft.’
‘What do you mean?’
“Oh I’ll keep working on this, day after day. I’ll let it rise like bread and knock it back a couple of times.’
‘I'll remember that,’ Luigi grinned at her, ’And in the meantime I’ll bring you a coffee for poetry.’