He sat staring at the empty coffee cup. For how long he had been in that same spot, he was not aware. His awareness was limited to just that cup of coffee, the one that had been full an hour ago? Maybe two? It had been full, once, but seemed like forever ago. Another life, another time, another person. The vividness of the cup appealed to him, the way the hardened paper felt smooth against his fingers, the printing was slightly raised so it created a topography of feeling against the tips of his digits. Each one felt something different, relayed that information to him in a different way, and recalled in his mind the vision of his wife standing in the snow with snow-covered mountains as a backdrop. 

Her face was flushed and she was gasping in deep lungfuls of air. Despite the cold her hair was damp with sweat and clung to her face just above her eyes. She had long since given up trying to brush the strands back, and instead lost herself in the moment. It was their first anniversary and they had gone skiing to celebrate. He had no clue how to ski and she had been once as a child, and claimed that her past vacation would be all they needed to learn. She would teach him and they would go on an adventure. The adventure turned out to be more than the picnic she had planned, as he lost control of his momentum and went sailing down the mountain, far off the marked trail. Once she had caught up to him he had taken a tumble, lost a ski, and was partially buried under a pile of snow that had fallen from the tree branches that finally stopped the obvious roll he had down the side of the slope. When she found him they had what she called a “cliché Hollywood moment”, but no matter how cliché it burned forever in his memory.

They never went skiing again, mainly because they knew no trip could ever be better than that one had. There had been others, though, and his thoughts drifted through each one like one of those snowflakes had drifted through the branches of the tree above them. They had been mugged in the streets of a small town in Italy, and she had chided him about it the rest of the trip. It had been his idea to strike off and explore the city and she had warned him that something bad might happen. They’d gone to New York for New Years and kissed in Times Square as the ball dropped, watched a musical in an outdoor amphitheater in Galveston, went scuba diving in the Caribbean, and skinny dipping that same night. Every year they had gone somewhere new. Even if it was just for a day.

He looked up and smiled at her, sitting across from him. She was wearing that yellow sun dress she had bought in Peru, and the big floppy hat that matched it. It clashed horribly with the environment around him, but that was her. She was never one to conform to the world around her. He stared at her for what seemed like ages, basking in the glow that was her beauty and exuberance. In that dress she was as bright as the sun, and he could feel her warmth beaming down on him. This was their coffee shop, the place where their life had begun together. He had tripped and spilled coffee all over her laptop. She was so angry, shouting at him as he tried to mop up the mess, to no avail; the computer was ruined, and he did the dumbest, and smartest, thing he had ever contrived: asked her to dinner. It was under the guise of working out a way to pay for the damage, but the spark in her eyes had caught him the moment he looked up, ruined cup in hand, dabbing spilled coffee from the table.

Her eyes had caught him, and he had been trapped since that moment. Two weeks and one new laptop later they had kissed, and one year later they were engaged. They started coming back to the coffee shop for everything, before each of their trips, to celebrate their meeting, and eventual joining of lives. This became their place, and it was like their second home. This is where they had come on the day she called him, her voice edging on frantic, and told him she needed to see him, right away. They did not go to their home, they came here. It was here that he learned she had cancer. She had gone to the doctor because she had felt sluggish for the last few months, tired even though she slept soundly through the night. They hadn’t expected this, but they were going to beat it together, like everything that had come before then.

This was the place they had come the day before she died. She was wearing that yellow sun dress in the middle of winter and that big floppy hat to cover up the fact that she had no hair on her head. And she had been beautiful. They sat for hours, staring at one another the way he wished he was really staring at her now, rather than just the memory of her. The memory of her was so overwhelming, so powerful that it filled up his life, every hour of every day was lived with her standing next to him, whispering how much she loved him and how deeply she missed him. She was his world despite the fact that she was no longer in this world. He lived a lifetime every day in the memories that they had made and she had left behind. She was the space between the seconds of his moments.

He stared at her from across the table, marveling in the beauty that could not be stolen by disease and pain, by the agonizing sickness that had broken him just as much as it had destroyed her. And then she blew him a kiss, and shot him a slanted smile that brought tears to his eyes. They filled his vision and he fought them back, they were obscuring her and all he could see was a cloudy outline of her. His hands pushed the tears out of his eyes, but it was too late. The woman who had been his wife in the yellow sundress was gone. Just an empty chair sat across from him. He stood, gathered the bags at his feet, and walked out to head to the airport.