Mud-water splashes against my pant legs. In no time they’ll dry, leaving spots of dirt trailing up the material. I despise going anywhere when it rains. Fog beats against storefront windows. The air is humid, melancholy whispers that reduce themselves to leaves as they tap the top of a park bench. It’s nothing special, an ordinary bench in a line of benches.
The coffee shop, with its scattered tables, struggles to mimic some endearing quaintness found in larger cities. The atmosphere falls short of the cliché setting in which a girl I used to date in high-school phones to say she’s driving through town that afternoon.
The atmosphere, where, a couple quivering cups of coffee, a bit of small talk, and a handful of tense gestures later, we find ourselves reminiscing between three-hundred-count bedsheets in a hotel a few miles down the road where I realize exactly what it is we’ve both done after thirty-minutes of irreverent silence and a couple attempts at ‘footsie’.
This is the café where baristas forget to properly mix the milk with coffee. The light swirls around dark, and there’s an ease by which my tongue separates the flavors. Nagging, really, like trying to recall where it is I’m supposed to remember her from or how she obtained my number.
From school? Decades have passed since I attended school…never went to reunions. She wants to ‘catch up’, the voicemail says. It dictates to meet her downtown at 2:00 P.M. and to not be late.
Catch up to what? I never realized we’re behind. It’s true, though…as true as the way stagnant water lurks on small town sidewalks and waits for some guy…some guy with a receding hairline and proof that sitting behind desk twelve hours a day utilizes more mental endurance than physical–then, now, here, gone; and all leads to the eventual absorption in pavement or dirt.
She’s in a blue dress, periwinkle if I’m being specific. I’m not, so I’ll go with blue. The back of her head resembles a helmet. Is that a bob? I still can’t recount who she is. I know who I am–the recluse–the stereotypical nerd whose Saturday evenings were best spent programming in VCC++ 6.0, learning the song of FORTRAN, and LINUX–were? Who am I fooling? They still are.
I turn. The bookstore’s having a sale–twenty-five percent off this weekend only. When it rains, I crave an adventure with Herman Melville, to ride along on the Pequod. Will they have a copy?
A tragic journey on the high-seas or a by-the-hour hotel encounter with a chic I don’t recall?
Chanting along with the infamous quarter-deck scene or waiting in a café incapable of mixing caffeinated beverages?
Pages of winding plot, or hours of wondering why anyone would be wearing such a hideous shade of my favorite color?
The bell clanks as I enter. The clerk glances up. “Can I help you?”
“Certainly, you don’t happen to have Melville, do you?”