sf_gerrit_icon.gif sf_jacoba_icon.gif

Scene Title Mundanity
Synopsis Two parents discuss a daughter over morning coffee.
Date October 18, 2020

“You ever wanted to just… fucking scream?”

A man in his early fifties asks his reflection this question. It’s a subtle thing, viewed in the glossy surface of a large window looking out over a busy street in downtown Chelsea. Traffic is mostly at a standstill, pedestrians walk by absorbed into their own worlds. The sky is blue, somewhere birds are singing. But he cannot hear them over the conversational din of a Starbucks.

“I mean, not like… angry. Just something primal. Animalistic. Just drop down to your knees and… howl like an animal?”

Gerrit Van Dalen has barely touched his black coffee; a few polite sips to marvel at the mundanity of the moment. Right now he’s transfixed on the way his faintly visible expression mirrors in the window. Right now, he’s transfixed on the details of other more subtle mundanity. It’s distracting to him.

“I feel like we’re going to be fired at any minute. Like, Teller is going to just walk through the door to our office and tell us to pack up our things before they march us out the front door.”

Gerrit finally turns away from the window, worry sunk into his features. He looks like he has a little more gray in his beard, in his hair. Maybe it’s the lighting. Maybe it’s just being here. Across from Gerrit is a redhead just a couple of years his junior. They’ve both aged gracefully, but he’d say she more so if pressed about it. It wouldn’t be modesty talking.

“Not for nothing. Just… on a whim. I worry about what would happen to— to our work. Everything we’re trying to do. It’s not like they’d let us take anything when we left. Everything would just be… be property.”

Jacoba Van Dalen has heard some of this before. Gerrit is a worrier, always has been, always will be. But the stresses weighing down on him are worse now than they ever have been before. Life has a way of finding ways to do that; to take the already insurmountable and make it larger, spikier, heavier.

“Sorry. The coffee is surprisingly good.”

Chelsea, Manhattan
New York City

October 18th
10:12 am

“There are studies that show that Scream Therapy can work for multiple forms of anxiety,” Jacoba offers after a moment, stirring the cream into her coffee into a whirl of light color in the dark. “I’m sure we could find somewhere private and secluded enough for you to try it.” Her smile is teasing, as if she understands quite well that, yes, this is just who he is. And she is very much fond of that man even so. “I believe it was a form of Primal Therapy. John Lennon was supposed to be a huge fan of the idea back in the sixties.”

Though she is teasing, what she spoke of was a real psychological treatment and therapy, but it might not be quite as successful in all cases. “If you started to scream in his face, Teller likely would show us out the window, so if you have the urge, we definitely will need to find you a secluded location.”

With a smile, she takes the first sip of her coffee, before nodding in surprise, “Better than I thought it would be, honestly.”

“Well, John Lennon is also dead so…” Gerrit isn’t sure where he was going with that and dithers, instead choosing to sigh into his coffee as he slouches over it. Gerrit takes a sip of his coffee then cradles his hands around the mug, looking cold. He isn’t really dressed for early October weather, dress shirt unbuttoned and cream-colored blazer not thick enough to stave off the autumnal chill.

“I didn’t think it would be so cold,” Gerrit says with a roll of his shoulders, looking out the picture window to the street. College students walk by, bundled up in puffy jackets and loose scarves. He catches a glimpse of his own reflection in that glass and looks away, back down to his coffee.

“Do… you think this visit will go better than the last one?” Gerrit wonders, brows knit together. “She wasn’t exactly thrilled to see us. I mean— we didn’t call ahead and just showed up on campus but…” He starts rambling, trying to cover up his nervousness. “We’re doing better, right? This is better?”

“It’s autumn in New York City, Gerrit. What were you expecting?” Jacoba can not help but tease him, but then gestures at the coffee, which at least is still steaming with warmth. “The coffee is warm, at least. Though I admit we should plan our wardrobe better for next time.”

She hadn’t quite prepared as readily for the weather as she would have liked either, though the dress suit at least went almost all the way down her legs. There were many outfits that would have been far more acceptable for the weather, though, but they were obviously tourists. For the moment, at least, they were inside and could warm their hands on mugs of coffee and stay out of the cold breeze.

“We’re doing the best we can under the circumstances. It’s—difficult. But I’m sure she’ll be—” No, she doesn’t finish that. “I’ll be glad to see her.” She seems to settle on, as if that will be enough for her in this case. She can’t control how she will feel about it, nor can she really prepare him for that, but— “I miss her.”

“I do too,” Gerrit says with a slouch of his shoulders forward, staring down into the surface of his coffee. He is less reluctant now to warm his hands on the mug. The way in which that comforts him is at first surprising, then not.

“I suppose this is why we sent her here, isn’t it?” Gerrit asks, rhetorically. “It’s better here, she has more of a chance for a… a future?” Somewhere along the way Gerrit lost the thread of the conversation. He looks up from his coffee to Jacoba, emotion visible in his eyes but not quite making it past them. He tamps it down and swallows it back before saying something he can’t take back.

Looking out to the street through the window, Gerrit furrows his brows and shakes his head. “I just worry…” he says. Because he always does. Because he cares.

“I just want her to come home,” Gerrit finally decides to say out loud. He’d been shouting it in the back of his mind for days.

“We both do,” Jacoba agrees quietly, “She’s in college now. This was going to happen either way. She’s happy. She’s learning, and doing things that she’d dreamed of doing— she has friends and people she’s close to.” But there were people that she didn’t have in her life as often as before— people who certainly did miss her.

Glancing down at her coffee as if the dark liquid would give some answer that they can’t get from the small moment of silence that follows. It doesn’t come, though, because the coffee has no answers, and neither does the silence.

“Are you thinking of asking for a transfer here? To be closer to her?” There’s a cautiousness about the question, as if it’s something that she’s almost afraid of how he might answer. A question she’s been avoiding for a while, because of how he might answer.

But the coffee and the silence weren’t going to answer that question.

“I…” Gerrit draws that single sound out, scrubbing a hand over his mouth. “I don’t know. I—probably not? I’m not going to lie, I've thought of it and I know you have too. It’s tempting, isn’t it? All this?” He looks out the window to the city, then back to Jacoba. “I don’t think work would ever let both of us go like this, though. But being able to be here for her… twenty-four seven?”

Gerrit wrings his hands together and shifts awkwardly in his seat. “I suppose we could try running a surrogate at work? I mean they haven’t shut down the whole program. Maybe they could take over for me—us—while we…” He knows it’s a flight of fancy. That there’s too much going on right now for him to risk it. For either of them too. The thought eats away at him.

There’s a small sigh from Jacoba. He had just confirmed one of the things she had been wondering about for a while. “I can stay back for the moment. To make sure that our work continues and stays on track. There’s a lot that needs to be looked after, and both of us… transferring at the same time would be too much strain on the current projects, even with replacements.”

Even as she says it, she reaches a hand across the table, offering it to him. “I can join the two of you in a few months when things get settled unless the circumstances change. We can discuss it when we get home and make plans then. We can’t make all the decisions ourselves, unfortunately.”

Gerrit’s face is one of immediate guilt, shoulders hunched and head bowed. He wrings his hands around his coffee cup, breathing in a deep breath and deflating with a sigh. “I can’t leave you in the office to manage all those egos by yourself. It’s not fair. I’m— I’m being selfish, and we need to focus on the long-term here.”

Looking into the coffee shop, Gerrit studies the faces of the people drinking, laughing, and socializing. “New York will still be here when we’re done,” he hates to admit, but knows it’s true. “I’ve got to start treating her like an adult. She can take care of herself. She doesn’t need her dad like she used to.”

A smile dawns on Gerrit’s face, blinking a look up to his wife. “Do you remember when she insisted on learning how to skateboard when she was nine? But she wouldn’t stand on the board unless I was holding her hand?” He laughs, mouth twisting into an emotional smile. “I miss that little girl.”

“Maybe we should have tried for another instead of getting buried in our work for twenty years,” Jacoba says with a small smile, thinking of how they could have given their daughter a younger sibling— but, well— some bridges couldn’t be rebuilt. “She’s a young woman now. I do miss the little girl, but I can’t wait to see what she will grow into. I am just glad she will have that opportunity.”

Even if they won’t always be there to see if. “I heard she even has a real boyfriend now,” she adds after a moment, grinning a little, teasing, as if she knows exactly what this means. And how Gerrit might take it. Fathers were always a little odd about their little girls having boyfriends. She would know, her father had been strange with her first boyfriends. And even her now-husband.

Gerrit is struck silent. His eyes wander the table in front of him, jaw sets and one hand scrubs softly over his mouth. He swallows, emotion evident in his eyes, and then swallows audibly and nods. Gerrit doesn’t go back for his coffee. Instead, he reaches for his wallet and counts out a few bills to leave on the table.

“Maybe we should’ve done a lot of things…” Gerrit finally says after a moment, his eyes reddened around the edges and glassy with emotion. “But there’s no changing the past,” he adds, reaching out across the table to take his wife’s hand in his.

“Just the future.”

A moment later, the table is empty save for a few bills tucked under a coffee cup.

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