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Coffee with the Ex

Paul Hostovsky

We called it coffee but neither of us

had coffee. I had tea and she had

one of those flavored water drinks

in a bottle. Coffee was a euphemism,

a metaphor, an idiom for asking

the idiot who married her thirty years ago

to come sit down across from her now

and discuss the plans for the wedding—


our son’s wedding. I’ve hated weddings

ever since ours turned out to be

a pack of pretty lies. I hadn’t said more

than a few words to her since

the divorce. I had a few things

I could say now, but I didn’t say them


because I’ve loved my son ever since

he was born. So I sipped my Earl Gray

and listened politely as she nattered on

about the bridal shower, the venue for the wedding,

the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses (sage),

the menu for the rehearsal dinner

and how much it was going to cost

me. We called it coffee but neither of us


drank coffee. We called it love

but neither of us loved each other, not

really. Or maybe we did once, but it grew

tepid, cold, bitter, and the cup that runneth over

cracked, shattered, got tossed out.


“See you at the wedding,” she said,

and we left the coffee shop together as the sky

opened up. Then I was sitting alone in my car,

the rain impinging on the parking lot,

thinking about myself and my old sadness—not

my son and his new happiness—feeling vaguely wrong

about just about everything.


Paul Hostovsky's poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net Awards, the FutureCycle Poetry Book Prize, and the Comstock Review's Muriel Craft Bailey Award. He has been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer's Almanac, and The Georgia Poetry Circuit. He makes his living in Boston as a sign language interpreter.


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