The two took a table, their old table, in the Coffee Stop. It was one establishment that had survived the worst of the pandemic, and so had they.
Keoki asked, “How’s the new year treating you so far, Ed?”
It was the first time they’d met in nearly three years, that initial reunion postponed after Keoki had contracted Covid about the middle of the third year. At their age, recovery had been slow for him. They were the last two of their group. When everyone had retired, one after another in quick succession, the morning coffee gang had been much larger, but that was twenty years ago, and with the flight of time, so had gone the flight of souls. The two friends had texted each other during the pandemic, each relieved that their messages elicited responses. Silence from the other end could only have been a bad sign.
“Pretty good,” said Ed. “I lost the cough finally. And the fevers. I think the body aches were actually the first thing to go. Then the fevers. The last thing was that darn cough. I swear I coughed so much that by the end I was coughing because it irritated my throat and lungs so much it just kept going. Howzit been for you?”
“Dora’s not doing so good,” said Keoki. “Between her fatigue and the breathing therapy, she’s pretty much down most days. She’s on a ventilator at night. We don’t do much anymore. Can’t. Was hell when I got Covid. Had to isolate, so had to hire caretakers, nurses to come in help Dora. That was killing me, too.””
“I hear you, Keoki. When Cici died, it was like we’d finally crawled into a box we couldn’t break out of. Sitting by her in bed all the time, watching her go, it made our world so small. The only time I went out was to buy groceries or take her to doctor appointments.”
The two men sipped their coffee.
“A small world for sure.” said Keoki, “and Covid didn’t help things any. More like a claustrophobic world. ‘World’ not even the right word for it while we were hoping to get through those couple years. We didn’t have a world anymore. We had a space. A small space. The world was out there, yeah, but we weren’t part of it anymore. Was almost foreign to us.”
Ed nodded, “Yeah, was like we were already in our coffins and waiting for the lid to close.”
They sipped again.
Keoki said, “All in all, it’s been a good new year. You know, I should be happier than I am, I think. Sure, Dora’s not doing well, sure. But I’m here to help her, at least. I’m not dead, so I can take care of her. If she were on her own, man, I hate to think. Heck, I still wake up every morning, and so does she. We all definitely entered into that range where waking up every morning is a real good thing.”
Ed nodded. “Me too, knock on wood,” he said. “I should be happier too. Hey. Can we say the future is looking good, at our age, I mean. Can we still talk about the future like it’s way out there for us. Like we got time.”
“Maybe so, I guess,” said Keoki. “But the future we can talk about, it’s not the same kind of future my grandkids can talk about. I mean for them getting up every morning, it’s just getting up. They don’t open their eyes and think, ‘Good, I woke up again today.’ For us, future is a whole different word. Maybe for us now the word for ‘future’ is gone. It’s it’s like it’s been replaced by the word ‘tomorrow’.”
“Right, right,” said Ed. “Tomorrow is the future for us. For our grandkids, the future is plenty tomorrows. Years of tomorrows. For us, we hoping for just one. At least one more.”
“Yes. The coffee tastes real good today,” said Keoki.
“Yeah,” said “Ed, it’s like the best coffee I ever had.”
“And for us,” said Keoki, “it’s going to taste better and better every day.”
“Yeah,” agreed Ed, “at least, hopefully until a couple more tomorrows.”
They raised their cups.
“To tomorrow,” they said together.