Chris always made a point to say people's names when speaking to them. Either at the start of a sentence, or by forcefully attempting some poetic-sounding natural prose at the end. It mostly bothered me because we shared our name, and it sounds so harsh and empty when hearing it out-loud. I can overhear him as he's ringing up his friend in the record store that shares space with the coffee house I've wasted my best years in. Chris is a good man, kind and hurt. I'm split in half, recently torn by Veronica, who has still not responded to my latest round of pleading voice messages. She says I'm incapable of living alone, but alone is what I'll end up with. This thought allows for an unwanted glimpse into my make-up. Half of me is joyous, pleasant, polite, and driven. The other half is being driven by a suicidal snipe, ready to stab with the dark vocabulary and shared memories learned from the first half. I find a dark element exists in both these halves, but determining their ratio will take time, therapy, and effort I choose not to afford. I’ll bury myself in a body, like everyone else: sum it up as love.
Chris' friend exits the record store through the graying sensor shields that separate the two businesses. I recognized his friend, jerking passed an unsubtlely rushed stare before he looked over at me. He plants himself by neatly arranging his belongings in the farthest corner of the coffee house, particularly choosing a two-seater table near the door. He turns towards my direction to order, flashing a closed-mouth smile to say hello while maintaining a purposely-apparent awkwardness that is poorly hidden through his charming, sexually-ambiguous manner. "Hey man, how's it going" I spit out without realizing. My signature male-approach falls short on the one customer who ignites me. The short interactions we've shared has consumed the surface-thoughts that fill my every-day. "Good, um, red tea?" he whimpers with a smirk as our customer-barista dialogue plays out so predictably I almost walk to the back to wash off the self-pity I've begun wearing to work. After I hand him a medium cup of Africa Bush leaves soaking in hot water we both know is overpriced, he trails off with an abrupt goodbye--probably his most masculine expression in the times I've served him. I watch as he pours honey into his cup, and notice I am not the only one observing. The attraction to this individual is something beyond me, something I may have learned or read about had I gone to college, or continued to read books after "Catcher in the Rye" made me cry one high-school day in the backyard of my parent's house. This connection occurs so seldom, yet the rarity of it is the underlying motivation that keeps my worn body in this hard, thinly cut apron. 'An old friend you haven't met yet' was how I explained it to Veronica once. Like the moment we crossed paths, we knew a mutual bond exists. We nod, exchange money, and carry on, all the while knowing bonds like this lack value unless one of us breaks through formality.
He usually comes in with a short girl who wears a shaved head to compliment her alternative style. Neither of them seem like stems. Upon returning to his seat he begins pulling items from his backpack. X-acto knife, tape, butcher paper, and what seemed like a small magazine; some literary publication that carried a vintage charm. He glossed over the room through his peripheral vision a few times, feeling the glares from the counter. I watched as he wrapped a DVD he purchased in the record store, and what seemed like a letter or disc, in the butcher paper and began taping things to it. His focus seemed planned. The investment put into this project left me at an empty counter reflecting on my own failed projects. How the lack of their birth was projected so harshly on Veronica, as if she is to blame for my social-gratifying impulses and deep-rooted lazy habits. Ever since she moved out there is this energy that doesn’t seem to go away. It's a pleasant energy, but teases me, unconditionally. Heavy waves blast this current, no sense of control. The time between then and now proved itself worthy, but forgotten by habit. Simple trades. Love for lust. Evaluation for determination.
Grabbing a wet towel, I cleaned my way past the tea-drinking stranger in an attempt to spy on the project he vigorously flirts with. He seems younger than me, less confident but more cultured. A cut-out from the small magazine with the word "Notice" exclaimed itself in big letters, drawing my curiosity to how he has placed it on the front of the package he's crafting. He glances over quickly as I massage the Sweet Potato soup off the cheap, aluminum table near the door. This project seemed like something I would have considered doing for Veronica, at least in the initial stages of our courtship. I begin to wonder whom he is doing it for, and why he has chosen the items he's packaging. A heavy feeling from the past returns, sending a shrivel straight down. I began realizing the Fall was held together by a fantasy that proved myself no different than the fictional character my formal self had imagined me to be. Cold by youth, I, like the boy at the table--taping and cutting away--had broke away from a previous self, and wrote up a new present; one where new-found interest would mask my boyish nature and legal-drug-abuse. I'm new. Rough, bare skin awaits in red and unforgiving doors, I cannot escape their manic opening and closing. Deep rust fucks like deprived jackals, and I howl for a fix. Primal, beaten down by the lingering regret for how my last relationship ended, I'm lost by these thoughts, realizing I've met someone new. Someone who only appears in light. If only a splinter is the risk for turning such rough pages, I must continually see what this story holds. At twenty-eight, I find my life is too short. I feel. To appreciate the texture and composition of no-man’s path. I feel. I become cleared in that instant. Back at the counter my veins pump clean with an ego to prove it. Chris boasts carelessly of all past ambitions that fell short, he will soon see as I do. Life has been a series of starts without stops.