And she left without saying a word.
How many was it? Three? Four? He wasn’t sure. There was the Persian woman—or at least she looked Persian. The tall, blonde, voluptuous Dutch woman. With her large, pointy nose that was a bit of a turnoff. She was carrying… a shopping bag; Hermès, was it? Must be of the upper class. Aim high, they say. Yet even he had to admit… way too high for him. Too tall, too. Out of his league, to use the cliché. He would be like— like a lone wolf staring at the moon endlessly, every night, pondering how perfect she was, how magnificent. How her light shone on everything on earth, but him. He would be howling incessantly, waiting for her to respond, to take a glance at him, to recognize his existence. But of course, in the end, he would be left alone in the dark, enveloped by his own shadow, the moon out of his reach.
So three, then. Oh, wait. There was the petite brunette, with the brown skin. Yes, how could he forget her? She was by far his favorite. Exotic. The way she walked, her smile, her large green eyes, her— He had fun. She did too, he was convinced of it; she laughed at his jokes, played with her hair. Those were indicators of interest—IOI’s. He was doing well, until…
So there were four, after all. And the last one left without saying a word.
By now the sun was almost setting, covering every inch of the café he was sitting in, in indistinguishable gradations of warmth. The gigantic, rustic coffee-bean roaster at the corner; the wooden chairs and tables; sacks of coffee beans piled up on one side… Even people’s faces seemed warmer now. And that when a few moments ago, an hour, maybe two, everything seemed cold, everyone unapproachable. Like large chunks of ice, carved to resemble the shape of a human being. Ever so distant, frozen in their own thoughts.
He wondered whether he should order another cup of coffee. The one sitting on his table was now cold; he barely touched it. Very wasteful, very wasteful. Like his last conversation with the woman who didn’t even bother to say goodbye. He wished he hadn’t spent that much time on her, trying to convince her, to sell himself. After all, aren’t we all… merchants? Merchants of life, merchants of death. Sellers of promises, traders of expectations, dealers of dreams? The woman who puts on make up and wears a push-up every day—doesn’t she constantly display her fairness in a fair? Auction her supposed beauty to the highest bidder? But take everything off until not even the tiniest smudge is left—could you take whatever remains at face value? Or take the politician whose outcry was heard to the ends of the world: If I become president, I will put an end to torture! If I become president, I will no longer wage war against country such-and-such! If I become president… etc. etc. Now it was almost sunset; and he had no phone number! Of course, asking for her number would have been out of the question. It was experiences like this that made him traumatic. Oh, how he hated setbacks like this! A minor one, but a setback all the same. In terms of perfecting his craft, his skills, it couldn’t really be seen that way, for it was practice, after all. And sure he learned something. But mentally…
What was left of his confidence, already so fragile, so microscopic, was shattered into even smaller pieces. How long would it take to pick them all up, to reconstruct what was supposed to be?
He thought he did everything perfectly: He did a quick mental rehearse of his opening line, his jokes; the woman was sitting alone, two tables away, reading a book; he walked slowly to her; he smiled; but she didn’t close her— was it Mrs. Dalloway? He was pretty sure it was. She did have an excellent taste, if it was. Maybe that was, unconsciously, what convinced him to go over—the expectation that, with the same taste in literature, perhaps, perhaps… Ah, what does it matter now, he thought.
“Waitress!” he called, raising his hand.
There she came, wearing a dark apron, her hair in a ponytail. She now stood beside his table, a notepad in her hand and a smile on her face. He wished every woman would smile like her—it would make life much easier, much happier, maybe… Indeed, if every woman he approached would smile like that, how could he be nervous?
“Yes, I would like a—” it didn’t really matter what he ordered, as long as he could sit there not looking like an average frustrated chump—or worse, a predator scouting around for a potential prey… “another cup of coffee please. Thanks.” Funny, he thought, how similar picking up women was to hunting. The adrenaline rush; how focused his eyes would be; his mind; all the excitement he could never get from anything else. Well, of course there used to be the video games. He once thought playing video games was the perfect substitution to the quests men used to go on in ancient times. By evolution, men are designed to hunt, to take on adventures, go on battles, conquests, to have a chance to be—and feel—heroic. So when all that is no more, we play video games.
But that was in the past. Now he realized it was all a waste of time. Besides, nothing could beat the satisfaction of meeting someone new, interacting with them, sharing laughter, having fun together. It didn’t matter whether he could take them to his bedroom, or let them take him to theirs—no, he wasn’t there yet. Something as simple—or should be simple—as getting a phone number would already be a tremendous improvement.
The waitress came back with his coffee. He took a sip, and as the thick black liquid entered his body, he closed his eyes, took a deep breath and then let out a sigh. He put his elbow on the table, and rested his chin on his palm, which was covered by beads of sweat. His eyes wandered out of the window, looking at people on the street. Strange, he thought, how selectively we perceive the world. If you’re single, you almost only notice the women, and spend much, much more time observing the good-looking ones. You see a beautiful woman walk with a man, holding hands, and you would instantly compare him to yourself. How could a man like him get a woman like her? His friend told him that, before he got married and had children, he never noticed women—or couples—push a pushchair, or carry their children in their arms. Now his friend told him that was all he saw.
Just then a woman walked in.
She walked in, and his train of thought took a dip into what might be the deepest ravine that ever existed in the human mind. The rail was broken right in the middle and there it went. Plunge.
She walked in, and… What a beautiful hair, soaked in the warmest tints of the imminent sunset; the way the wind caressed every wave—every strand—of her hair; and her eyes… Is this shampoo, or am I imagining it? he thought.
She sat, raised her hand, smiled; she ordered. Do I dare? Do I dare, he thought, disturb the picture crafted by the universe? He contemplated walking towards her.
“I need a girl’s opinion on something.”
“What do you think if a guy, who has a girlfriend, is still in touch with his ex?”
And then he would make a smart remark on her dress, on her hair, on her drink, or the way she sat… Yes, anything would do. And humor, of course. One simply does not forget humor.
“I… uh… I— I— I need a… uh… female opinion.”
“What do you think of—”
“Who are you, and why are you talking to me?”
“I’m a guy who will change your life forever.”
She would burst out laughing. “That’s the corniest, cheesiest, most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!”
Not to mention creepy.
No, that’s not how it would go. Or, well, it’s certainly possible. So many things could go wrong. What if she doesn’t like him? What if he stammers? What if— what if— and a drop of cold sweat went down from his forehead to his chin, dripped and dropped on the back of his hand. Do I dare? He was on the point of standing; his bottom quite separate from the chair; his knees not so bent. But he sat down again. He looked around and was sure people were watching him. They were looking at him! They must think of him as a freak! The longer he rehearsed his lines, analyzed his hypothetical scenarios, the more unsure he grew. He simply must put an end to this!
He stood up so fiercefully and suddenly, the chair nearly fell over. The screeching sound it made as it skidded backwards made its way into every ear in the room. Now he was sure everyone was watching him. No matter, this will soon be over, he thought.
He walked towards her, growing more confident and determined with each step. A few more steps, he thought, and this will all be over. He inhaled and exhaled in an attempt to relax, but it didn’t help. His heart was racing, pumping blood into every tip and toe on his body, except the part which, normally, would be filled with thick, warm, red liquid during an intense interaction with an attractive woman. Soon he reached her table. He stood there—it was not certain how long he stood there, for to him it seemed long—far too long. But according to the convention of time used everywhere on earth, it might have been a second, or two. Within that time interval, thoughts swarmed his mind and rushed through it; word by word flashed before him, welled up inside his throat, but would not spill out. Strange, how words live inside our mind, readily available and accessible, yet at the moment you need them most, you could search and search and still not find the right ones anywhere.
“Hi. I— uh— I need your opinion on something…”
And she left without saying a word.
October 28 – November 8, 2012