I couldn’t keep my eyes on the page and I’m sure I’d read the last paragraph 14 times. The feeling was like being twitchy as a four-year old on too much juice. As I set down my novel and looked around the shop for… well, must have been the 14th time, I caught his eyes on me again. He looked away as quickly as I did. The dance had been going on from the time I’d crossed into the bookstore part of the little coffee shop across the street from my apartment.
I didn’t notice we were dancing right away. My friends tell me that I’m oblivious to the signals and I think they’re right. I know that I also shy away from too much attention… don’t want to draw attention. One never knows and I’m alone here in Brooklyn. I don’t count Yuan Yu, he’s still more employer than friend.
This man though… Truthfully, I had noticed him right away. He was the youngest person in the shop besides me and when I had walked in, he had glanced up with a quick smile and just as quickly resumed reading. I am an observer of people, they enter my sight, sometimes in a few moments, I can imagine the story of their life. It’s fun and great material to stow away for if I ever get around to writing more than poetry. The first time I really saw him, I had just taken an overestimated swallow of my latte and scalded my tongue. I could see him over the rim of my mug, a sympathetic smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. In the instant that our eyes met, I could picture him in a cafe in Montreal or Paris. Casual, boho style but with… something more…
He was attractive in an easy-in-his-skin way. The scarf around his neck like university guys wear, a deep blue sweater and dark Levis; the slightly longish 80’s boy hair suggested he wouldn’t or didn’t care about a hair cut but matured, mellowed and silvered. The next time I noticed, our waitress, Portia, who also worked the counter next door at Papa Joe’s; had come in to offer “Montreal” a refill on… plain coffee? I have to admit, I liked what I perceived as lack of pretension in his choice of good old Columbian coffee versus something more froufrou. “Montreal” leaned forward in conversation with the server, friendly, engaged. His smile to her, as he held up his mug, was so warm and I don’t know why but it warmed me. I guess because there aren’t that many friendly people here. Not like home. He settled back in his chair with an arm draped over the back, sipped his coffee while glancing around the room and caught me looking. He tipped his mug at me, again with that smile. I blushed like a stupid schoolgirl and grabbed for my latte, almost tipping it over, flustered at having been so obvious. I love to observe but I hate getting caught!
I tried for the next half hour or so to get some reading done before I crossed the street to my flat and afternoon had turned to dusk while I struggled. With nothing but dregs left of my second latte, I closed my book, stood to gather my purse and phone. When I turned, I could see “Montreal” silhouetted against the window front. There was still enough September sun to light up the street behind him in a fiery glow. For an instant, the light was dazzling and in one of those fey moments that I sometimes have; I could see his eyes on me again. Deepest, chocolate eyes but fired with amber from the sun and as I stared I felt a shock of… recognition, want… something. The sensation of knowing was so completely out of context, overpowering and before I could stop it the thought “Martin” crossed my lips in a sigh. The light shifted, changed and he was no longer looking at me. The moment couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds.
I grabbed up my stuff and hurried to the door of the shop. I glanced back but “Montreal” was engaged with his book – a very worn copy of Nietzsche. When I reached the front alcove of my building, I couldn’t stop myself from pausing to look back across the street. I could see him standing on the sidewalk just outside of the shop, wearing a leather jacket against the chill breeze that had sprung up, hands cupped around a match as he lit a cigarette.
I didn’t linger to see if he turned his gaze to me.
This story appears in “A Grain Of Truth Book One” by Karin Bole Tupper