Yeah, That Was Her

Something is going to happen here that’s not going to make sense. It’s not supposed to make sense. Don’t expect it to. You won’t be disappointed. But first, to get into the spirit—some books. Note pad. Laptop to warm up table space. Coffee. Toasted bagel with bucket butter. Ice water with lemon slices. In Greensboro, Grounds is the perfect coffee shop for meetings, precious thoughts. The seating area has a vaulted ceiling. Tables aren’t too close together. The servers, so cool they are somewhat dissonant, clad in goth fashion. Large birdcage near the counter. A canary paces inside. At the entrance, black sign, white font, Start with bread. Walls are painted yellow. A feeling of autumn, like spring for dead people. 

Woman sitting near the front is wearing something black on her head. Looks like a nun but doesn’t seem to be. Pays close attention to her surroundings. Engages in conversations with other customers. Most of the time, she keeps to herself. She is surrounded by chatter. 

Some customers come in large groups. For instance, the joggers club, eighteen of them, come here every morning. They sit in a circle and sip coffee. Roars of laughter consume the space.

Another group, the grumpy men. Surprisingly pleasant. Fifteen of them. Bible study on Wednesdays. They seem okay. It’s like listening to a sermon. Sometimes they can be over the top when reading a verse from the Book of Judges.

A sweet old white couple walks up to the woman who looks like a nun. Say, at the same moment, “I hope you find a friend in Jeeeeessssusssss!” 

It is not a habit but a hijab. A smile plays on the lips of the Muslim woman. Cocks her head and doesn’t say anything. 

“The older white man looks like my poetry professor,” she writes in her note pad. She reflects on a lesson someone taught her: To create art, you must have a sense of outrage about something. There’s something that fuels the engine of creativity. Many of us have gone through things in life that have planted a sense of outrage. It fuels you, and it is up to you if you want to change things.

She can’t change outrage. 

A lively Black couple drops in three tables away, “Hello, dear,” they say to her as they’re sitting down. Probably in their 80s. Newspaper laid out on the table a previous customer left behind. Cups of coffee, waters with lemon, and cinnamon raisin bagels. Jolie wears an oversized blue hoodie and black leggings. Gold frames that grip the temples match her gold, drop-and-dangle earrings. Complains of going blind, slowly, and carpal tunnel.

“I need new glasses, Frank, and my wrists are sore.”

“Well, you write all the damn time. I got you…give me your things.”

Frank, decked out in all-black Adidas attire. Frank, matching hat. Frank, diamond stud the size of a small button on his right earlobe. Frank.

Jolie takes the last bite of her bagel. Pulls out a couple of books, Divine Comedy and Paradise Regained. Her laptop. Newspaper in hand, Frank takes a sip of his black coffee. Quick turn to the obituaries.

At a booth across from them, mother, father, daughter. Two coffees, One tea. Days later, twenty-something white man. Appears to be the daughter’s boyfriend. iPhone in hand. A red Braves baseball cap. Black vest over his red hoodie. Skinny denim.

“Hmph! You know what?” Frank looks down at his newspaper.


“There’s a lot of people in here that ain’t never died before.”

Jolie stops typing. Daze stare. “WHAT?”

“I said there’s a lot of people in this obituary that ain’t never—”

I heard you. Frank, what the hell are you talking about?”

“Well, it’s true, dammit.”

“You don’t smell that weed? Can we move?”

“Move? I’m comfortable where we are.”

“Oh, perfect.” Jolie gets up from the table. 

 “Hey, where are you going?” 

“To the ladies’ room. You gonna wipe my ass for me, dammit?”

“You can’t use the bathroom. You go through this every time we come here.” 

Jolie walks away. Curses under her breath. The Muslim woman misses nothing of their back-and-forth banter. 

“I can’t use the bathroom, Frank.” 

“I’m surprised the girl’s parents haven’t said anything,” says Frank.

“His name is Joe.”

Joe just took a sip from her tea. “What is all that stuff on that bagel?”

“It’s an everything-bagel.”

“Whatever. What’s he sayin’ now?”

“I don’t know. Twenty-five. He says he’s twenty-five.”

“The way he talks I bet some of his teachers took early retirement after having him as a student.”


“What, Jolie?”

“I thought you couldn’t hear him.”

“Hear, who?”

Both Jolie and the Muslim woman look at Frank.

“Okay, okay, Jolie. What’s his name, again?”


Joe looks around for a few seconds. Now back to his girlfriend. Takes off his baseball cap. The Muslim woman chuckles at his obtuseness as she studies the gunshot exit wound on the back of his head. The fact that somebody has a present is no different from somebody that has a past. The people sitting across from Frank and Jolie are completely unaware that they are the centerpiece of Frank and Jolie’s conversation, until Jolie yells, “JOE.” Frank tries to hold in his laughter as he whispers to his wife. 

“Just kidding…wanted to see your reaction. No one has a facial expression like yours, honey.”

Laughter. Frank and Jolie. Grasping each other’s hands. The Muslim woman looks at them. While there are people in the coffee shop who haven’t died before, there’s a lot of people who probably haven’t lived. Even the canary is badly bruised under its right wing. It still has not sung.

“Wait a minute. Hold up.”

“Hold up, what?”

“Don’t you see the hole in his head? Never mind, old man. Joe’s got a big mouth. He says he enjoys hiking, chopping wood, hunting, and Creedence Clearwater Revival.”

“Well, that explains about his head.”

“Maybe his grandparents got married in the fall of the late 60s, right between the Summer of Love and the Winter of Regret.”

“Like us, right?” Frank winks at Jolie.

“Shut up, old fool,” Jolie chuckles.

“Hey, look it here, they’re getting ready to leave.”

“Well, it’s about damn time. I can’t stand the smell of weed.”

“We both used to smoke weed.”

“Well, I hate it now.”

“Getting high at that farm listening to Hendrix. How beautiful you looked…Here comes my Dolly Dagger; your love’s so heavy, gonna make me stagger…Drink up, baby,” Frank sings, with Jolie humming along.

“Do you remember that sister that was always hanging out in back? What was her name? Oh, I can’t remember.” 

“She could dance, but she didn’t talk a lot.”

“But she knew how to make a grand entrance.”

“Wasn’t she a groupie?”

“I heard she went off with a white guy.”

“I heard she became a nun.” 

“She wasn’t a nun. She became a Muslim.”

 I heard she landed a job at a post office as a custodian.” 

“I heard she took up with Mosque No. 7 in Harlem.”

“Whatever happened to her?”

“You got me there, Jolie.”

“Ha—check out the parents…they don’t look too pleased.”

“No one in here does. Hmph, what a way to go out.” 

Frank chuckles and shakes his head. They sit in silence. The sun rises red, caught under the Hendrix spell of dark, that holy quality of music that turns in upon itself. Jolie’s a sunrise—a heaven for Frank. No one is a sunset. Even in death. The Muslim woman can turn to her own self for comfort. With the intent to write, just when she thought she has everything she needed, she realizes she is no longer radiant. But dim. But the blinds are open, and she enjoys the natural light. Handwritten pages of notes sit next to her coffee. The sun moves behind a cloud, her handwriting darkens. She taps it, thinking the page’s screen is about to go to sleep. Wonders if she can write something with hope.


  • When Ilari Pass isn't writing poetry or short stories, she recites Ayahs (verses) from the Quran and enjoys traveling with her family. A three-time Best of the Net nominee, her writing appears in Writer's Digest, SWWIM Every Day, Pithead Chapel, Door is A Jar, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Indianapolis Review, Paterson Literary Review, and others.

  • Images of Jupiter. 1. Jupiter from the southern pole. 2. Close up of Jupiter's swirling cloud systems. 3. Jupiter’s northern UV auroras. Images obtained by the Advanced Camera for Surveys onboard the Hubble Space Telescope.