Gary wiped his eyes as the singers in the coffee house left the stage. The woman’s guitar had a sticker of Mona Lisa close to the fret boards and one of the Earth near the bottom of the box. Her partner had wavy hair, walked slowly, and had a voice that made you believe.
A year ago tonight, Gary had committed to getting himself sober. He used to hold on to beers for dear life. He remembered the infinite fall to the floor, where his lifeless life would shatter into a million particles of dust, and then just blow away. On the outside he’d looked like everything was in control. His insides had felt like a weeping, belching, puking bag of stress and desperation.
Tonight, though, it was tears of joy. Tonight it was all about music and iced tea.
He traveled his empty glass of tea in paths on the table. He watched the condensation changing shape as the glass passed by. Maybe this was how God painted the stars into the sky, painting his brush over them again and again until they lay out in a pattern that he found beautiful.
The tears were coming down faster. Gary hadn’t felt happy in a long time. He was starting to lose it. It felt good, but it was going to look embarrassing if he blubbered his way through their next set.
As he paid his bill, he put down another forty dollars. “For whatever the musicians order.”
“Do you want me to tell them?”
“No. Don’t. Random act of kindness.”
“You sure? They’ll really appreciate this.”
“Some other time.”
Gary left with a bag of Earl Gray tea, a slice of pound cake, and one of the musicians’ CD’s. He made it two blocks before he started crying. He sat down on the concrete parking space blocks in front of a furniture store. The lot was half-lit. He hoped any passing police cars didn’t think he was some kind of vagrant.
The sobs shook him. The tears tasted sweet. He wept because the smell of the iced tea inside his empty glass had been like cinnamon, only sweeter, and more like home than anything he’d known in a long time. He hadn’t smelled anything like it in over five years.
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” he whispered.
Back in the coffee shop, he could see the singers warming up again. From here they were only shadows. Her face and his, the mikes, just hints of their guitars, reflections of something shiny. It felt pure.