David stepped inside Leo’s basement apartment. As promised, it was warm. The chill that clung to David from the fall evening slipped away.
And, as David anticipated, the place was a mess. Every surface had a precariously balanced pile of something on top of it: CDs, old repair manuals, bits of paper with scribbled notes, mismatched screws. Leo moved one pile off a chair, offering the newly-empty surface to David.
“I just made some coffee. Would you like a cup?” Leo asked.
David thought about the time; it was already dark outside. “No, thank you. It would keep me awake. I’m surprised you can drink it.”
Leo smiled. “I can’t explain it, but I never have trouble sleeping these days. How about a beer, then?” David nodded his assent, and Leo bent to search the bottom shelf of his refrigerator. “Here’s one,” Leo said, handing David a cold bottle.
“Thanks.” David wondered how this conversation would go. His curiosity was as much about himself as about Leo. Would this newly-discovered sense of peace, of letting other people live their lives, survive a beer with the man who he’d considered an enemy for most of the last year or more?
Leo took a sip from his mug. “Ah, now that’s a strict cup of joe. No point in weak coffee, right? Are you warming up? I’m really glad you stopped by.”
David nodded. He was tempted to point out that he hadn’t “stopped by” at all, but had been lured in by Leo. But he said nothing, letting Leo lead, for a change.
“I’m glad you stopped by, really. Because, you know, I want to make sure you know I forgive you.”
“Forgive me? What for?” David felt his pulse rise.
“The whole thing, with the Jeep, and the crosswalk. And everything. I don’t think you tried to hit me, but even if you did, I forgive you.” Leo paused, sat back in his chair. “You know, I love Franny. I adore her. I get that other people will too. I can’t blame you at all for being in love with her.”
“I’m not, you know,” David began.
“It’s okay. You’re a good person, and you deserve to be happy. We all do.”
“No, I mean, I’m not. In love with Franny. I was, I think. But you can’t really be in love with someone you don’t know. I think it was the pursuit.” Is this the beer talking, or am I dreaming, David wondered, or am I really saying this to Leo? Is it true?
“Hey, man, I’ve been there,” Leo said. “We all have. But it’s time to find someone who can really appreciate you, don’t you think?”
David stood. “Thanks for the beer. I have to go.”
Back on the sidewalk, in the cold, David began to cry.