She sat in a cafe, writing, trying unsuccessfully to drown out the noise around her by turning the volume on her earphones up full-blast. There were only a few people around her, but they all seemed to have voices as loud and grating as her neighbor’s nightly 4am car alarm. But she was here to write, and she was going to write if it killed her.
She was deep in the middle of a paragraph about a deathly-ill old woman who was contemplating a reconciliation with her estranged daughter, when someone sat down, abruptly, across the small wooden table from her. She looked up halfway, expecting to see a bothersome pseudo-friend (many of whom seemed to populate the cafe she frequented these days). She was prepared to give the so-called ‘friend’ a polite, helpless shrug, accompanied by her stock response to such intruders, “Hi, I’m writing.” The unsaid message: Leave me the fuck alone.
But as she lifted her eyes to make full visual contact with the person sitting across from her, she saw that it was a man, no one she knew, but someone she wished she did. He had a movie star’s square jaw, dark brown hair that was somehow both disheveled and put-together, and hazel-greens eyes that seemed to reach deep into her chest with their intensity. His skin was the color of the layer of tan foam on her macchiato. He had the faintest of smiles on his face, as if he was hiding some silly secret and wanted her to ask him what it was.
She braced herself to make sure she didn’t stutter. She didn’t take her earphones out, but she did turn the volume on her laptop down half-way, listening to Morrissey’s droning voice die down to a watery murmur.
“Um, can I help you?” she asked the stranger. He lifted his chin slightly in greeting, and she noticed a small cleft in his chin.
“That depends,” he said. Her fingers were still on her keyboard, and she wanted to get back to the task at hand: to finish this story whose resolution had eluded her for months, even years now. She didn’t want this stereotypically dark, handsome stranger to get in her way. She didn’t let her husband or her mother get in her way, so why should she let this guy?
“Depends on what?” she said, examining how his slim but muscled arms filled out the sleeves of the plaid button-down he wore. Nice.
“On what you want to do with that boring story you’re writing.” He glanced down at her fingers laid on the laptop keyboard.
“How do you know about my story?” She felt something cold and slick at the back of her throat. Fear. She glanced around at the gabbing people that, a few moments before, had been so annoying to her. She realized with a shock that the volume of their voices, like the volume of Morrissey’s voice from her earphones, had been somehow turned down. Did she do that? Or did this man have something to with it?
“I know a lot of things about you. About your story, your writing,” he said. His voice was at a normal level. It was as if some invisible bubble had descended around them, buffering all other sound to a low hum. She looked more closely at the man, and realized that he looked familiar—but he wasn’t anyone that she had met in waking life.
“You’re, you’re—Him.” She knew her mouth was hanging open, but she didn’t care. This was too much.
He nodded, seeming satisfied with her answer. A smile lifted both corners of his mouth, and he gestured grandly to her laptop.
“I’m here to answer any questions you have, but you have to write some more first.” She nodded, incoherent, and started tapping away on the keyboard, still staring at him, trying to absorb every detail about him—the gravelly sound of his voice, his long-waisted torso, the way his adam’s apple bobbed as he spoke. She didn’t even know what she was writing, but she knew whatever she was writing was going to be good. She felt a lifting in her belly, her chest, as if she was suddenly standing in an elevator that was swiftly going up, up, up.
“Good,” he said. “You sit there for a half-hour and do that. I’m going to get a latte. I’ll come back and check on you, and then you can ask me anything you want.” He stood up, and the noise of the cafe around her began to rise again. She reached out and grabbed his arm, and was shocked to find how solid he felt, how real.
“Hey, can you keep all that noise down?” she asked. He shook his head and half-laughed.
“I didn’t do that,” he said, patting her hand in an almost fatherly gesture. “You did.”
Copyright 2010 by Rona Fernandez, All Rights Reserved