You grab your small coffee.
Medium, if it’s early.
You hand over your change with hands that are careful and calloused.
I feel guilty for hesitating at your touch, but – you have the dirtiest hands I’ve ever seen. As if it wouldn’t matter if you washed them.
I’m intrigued by the bits of you I’ve collected. How you refuse to accept the title “sir,” pretend you’d never argue with a woman, and wouldn’t take a million dollar prize – you’d rather earn it. You clean up real nice when it suits you, but your rugged voice never does quite match the suit.
You don’t look like the type who has a lot to spare, yet whether for a friend or a stranger, the coffee is always on you.
Your name is D***, I think you said? You fix roofs and you prefer to wear a hat; I can tell. You tip so nicely, with a wink telling me that I know where that change should go. You’re messy, but a gentleman.
Each time you return, I try to remind myself that the dirt is only earth coating your palms and fingers.
That character doesn’t develop in the shower.
She’s just as furry as me, but fierce and tiny.
I don’t understand it. All these surfaces, edges and fabrics – I’ve worked for years to claim them; rubbing against them nonchalantly, as if nuzzling instead of conquering territory.
And this little terror comes tearing through each door as if they’re hers!
I try not to shake; not to stumble and retreat. How is something so small so fearless?
I want to fight her off, chase her out of this house – my house – but they seem to really like her somehow. Hello?! I’ve been here for years! I can roll around like that. I can dart across floors and furniture in a furry frenzy. See?
I’m the one who has warmed your bed, kept you company, indulged you so very many photographs.
Yet here she is. All new and shiny, and all of a sudden I’m getting pity pets as if my character is diminished by her cuteness.
I don’t understand it: This stranger in my bed, on my chair. In all my favourite places, I find traces of her there.
But not because I asked for it. That’s what people say: that by wearing a blue, sparkly dress, I’m asking for the heat of a thousand eye balls and half as many gaping mouths.
I’m not asking for it. I simply felt like wearing a blue, sparkly dress today. The way you chose your top hat or those designer shades.
I didn’t ask for it any more than a girl in a short skirt asks for whistles and a concern for her safety.
I just hadn’t worn this dress in awhile and it was time to, is all.
Alright, so I otherwise look like a lumberjack with the long beard and the broad shoulders. And perhaps it – to some – makes my dress stand out in starker contrast.
And maybe I don’t mind the looks so much anymore. Over time it becomes easier to ignore a stare or return it, dead on, as long as I can go without blinking because two can play that game.
There was once a time when I shrunk under scrutiny; scurried from the spotlight as fast as I could go.
But not any longer.
So no, I’m not “asking for it” by wearing this dress.
It’s just that it goes so well with my sparkly blue heels. Don’t you think?
Running her hands up and down her arms stops her from grabbing her phone; from texting, or worse.
The saddest part isn’t that he won’t arrive. It’s that she let herself believe he would.
It was supposed to be different this time, but of course it’s not. And now she’s the girl, alone in a Starbucks, trying to hide amongst the hustle; the premature red signage that gets us all in a tizzy.
What if he’s just caught in traffic? It could be a flat tire. Would it be better or worse if he simply forgot?
Her lips tightly clutch one another in an effort to remain quiet. She will suffer alone in silence, slightly comforted by the company that comes with misery: when you’re just detached enough to feel both internal and external to it all.
And of course, it would be snowing. Those flakes that, just last winter, had kissed their squinted lashes, landed on the pillows of their smiling tongues.
Could it have ended differently? She’d like to think so, but it all feels a little too inevitable.
Nothing left to do now but gather her belongings, gather her thoughts, button her coat, and try to walk steadily even as the loneliness begins to drip, drip, drip into her bloodstream. An I.V. of he and what wasn’t meant to be.
She left her hat on the table. A stranger finds it seconds too late; waves and shouts after a car with a loud, sad song thumping through its shell.
One of the few good veins remaining.
“No!” she shouts, followed by an obscenity. “Nooooooo…”
She’s on the ground, cross-legged, roiling behind some shrubbery as if it’s a shield. But we see through it.
She appears frenzied, as if she could do something regrettable at any moment.
There’s nothing warm about this day. Nothing in her belly; nothing covering her hands.
A flash of flesh; her forearm blinds passersby, highlighting the besieged skin from prior pokes.
She just wants it in, but her veins warn against it. “Don’t use me for this. I don’t want that kiss.”
Yet she jabs and slaps and squeezes to make something happen, something that used to be magic.
It’s just that there’s no one remaining except a sad, swearing girl behind the curtain.
I shout it. It’s out of my mouth too quickly but I’m glad.
I can feel my eyes widen, and hers meet mine.
She looks as if she wants to be helpful; as if she hasn’t just crossed right in front of my path to get into some store. She doesn’t even notice. The nerve.
I hurry up to meet her as she asks, “Yes?”
“Why’d you have to cut me off?” I’m still shouting. I can’t help it.
She looks confused. Ha! Just because I was a few feet away, just because she probably thinks she could’ve gotten inside without slowing me down.
Doesn’t matter. The nerve.
“I’m sorry,” she stutters. “I really didn’t mean to.”
Bullshit. Let those cheeks go red.
“Oh yes you did,” I say, quieter this time. My head is cocked and my eyes are wide and she looks a bit frightened.
“I really didn’t,” she tries again, like a moron.
I don’t want to look at those pleading eyes any longer. Even if it’s better than not being noticed at all. I walk off, thump my hand upside my head.
Some people. Idiots.