It was quiet, not soundless, but worse — the sound of a half dozen people trying to be quiet — the kind of quiet that demands you scream, a primal scream that can only explode after a deep breath, deep as you can get, so deep that you can feel it go down into your toenails and spring back off the tip of your toes before you launch yourself upwards from bent knees and just belt, belt at the top of your lungs as your chair topples over and your coffee spills and you go and go until every ounce of air is gone and you’re empty inside, empty like the squeezed out juice pouch you put in a kid’s lunchbox each morning, nothing left but squished fingers.
I cleared my throat politely, nothing more.
The bells chimed, and the door swung inwards, followed by a man. Cold air ran past him, trying to get indoors and as far as it could from the bleak, frigid, early morning hell that existed beyond.
“Sorry I’m late,” the man said, smiling through a giant, messy beard that pushed my gaze up towards his small, earnest eyes. He pulled the heavy chair back, the groan of wood on wood cutting the silence.
“Let’s get right into it,” he said as he pulled off his gloves and set his hat on the table. The hair on top of his head was just as disheveled. “It’s a great job. You get out in the community. Decent pay. Good stories to cover. Good way to make a living.”
Those sunken eyes looked at me briefly, then remained fixed. So damn sincere.
“Listen. We like your stuff. This is a good place to live, to settle down. You got someone?” He paused. “You like it here?”
I glanced past him, over his shoulder. In the corner was a lanky young man wearing thick-framed red hipster glasses and a checkered blue flannel and holding a copy of the Times. Each time he turned the page he slowly brought his hands together, licked his left thumb to help turn the page, and gently opened them again.
A girl sat against the wall, boots kicked up on a chair, tattered paperback in one hand, head dipped in concentration. When she sipped her coffee she did so without taking her eyes off the page. Paperback and head both tilted upwards as if connected with a rod, and she sipped from the side of her mouth so as to not be distracted for even a moment. Her black hair was pulled back under a heavy brown jacket, but a few strands fell across her cheek. She smiled slightly, something funny on the page, no doubt. Just a smirk, like it was with Jenny —
Head tilts down. Hair falls across her face. A smirk as I’d brush it from her cheek with my fingers and press my lips against hers.
— I imagined walking over to the girl in the boots and brown jacket. If I was lucky maybe she’d break her gaze, keep her head down, no doubt, but maybe give me the courtesy of an upwards glance.
And if she brushed away her hair and smiled? Done.
I could see it all. Our first date making small talk over overpriced lobster, the boots and bulky coat shed and a pretty dress that shows off her shoulders in its place. And I make her laugh, and as she tells me about her family she smiles and her cheeks blush and her eyes scrunch. And I get that wonderful feeling like I’m free falling and my stomach’s floating and I can’t quite catch myself. And I smile back, and we fumble in the dark, nervous and smiling, and when I lean in close for a kiss I feel her breath against my cheek, hot and sticky and perfect, and her tongue dances as she presses against me. And I whisper secrets into her ear in the darkness and make her laugh again. And even though I can barely see her face I can see her smile perfectly and that free-falling feeling consumes me again. And I trace my fingertips along her bare back and across each part of her body, and we explore and dance and feel and touch and laugh. And maybe it works, and we do settle down: the house with the picket fence and the kids playing outside and the dog and barbecues with the neighbors as we grow old and …
Those sunken eyes, still looking over the wild beard, still so sincere. And all around me that same fake quiet that makes you want to scream.
That’s all I said. I took a breath and stood up, and he followed me with those sincere eyes.
“This is an end for me,” I said. “Maybe a good end, but …”
I slipped on my jacket and walked past him.
The bells chimed as the door swung inwards, and I stepped out into the bleak, frigid, early morning hell that existed beyond.
This post was written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge – Glimmers of a beginning