Meeting a friend for coffee halfway between her house and mine. Miss Special K is bringing a collection of tea cups for our Fairytale Tea decorating extravaganza on Sunday. Remember? The best charity event of the year? The cafe is foreign to us. It doesn’t take long to find out why.
I arrive first making my way through a small, cramped patio. I take a seat facing the street as to spy my doll as she approaches. A smarter woman may have looked about before settling in. Seated, I find myself face to face with a gentlemen at the table in front of mine. We’ll call him Loud Talker.
His chatter goes like this, “Well, if he doesn’t like it maybe he needs a life lesson. That’s just too bad. Sometime you have to take your lumps.”
He’s not threatening. It’s not a mafia voice, just loud. Besides any man wearing an undershirt in public paired with a straw Panama hat does not give off a scaredy vibe. I peer through my dark Jackie O’s. He times his words carefully to get in enough cigarette puffs. His rhythm is actually quite good. Loud talk, puff, loud talk, puff. Smoke blows my way. Thank you sir.
I can’t read with my Jackie O’s. They are prescription strength. The blur is just too much. I remove my protection which places my glance in his direction. Our eyes meet and he winks mid puff. Not a jolly cutie pie wink but a strained wink, like he’s not a good winker.
I begin the purse search. You know the one dolls. Uncomfortable? Dig around in your bag for anything. Keep your attention rooted to the bottom of the bag.
He puts the phone down and lights another cig. I look up to check the progress of Special K. She’s nowhere to be found. My gaze meets his again–he’s staring. His mother evidently never told him it’s impolite to stare. Make eye contact, smile, whatever, but continue staring? I know there’s no schmutz on my face. I checked right before I got out of the car.
The next time our eyes meet, I smile the weak smile of, “I am a friendly human.” No smile, just the stare. He follows up with the phlegmy cough of a lifelong smoker. If I must be openly ogled could he at least not be hocking loogies into a napkin?
Special K arrives. Lost in conversation with the sweet thing she is, I barely notice as he tips his hat on the way out. He has to turn sideways to accomodate his tummy. One more cough and he’s out the door.
Ah, the self esteem of men. If only we could bottle the stuff.