He was never quite sure what to do when she spoke to him. He was shy by nature but not annoyingly so. She was beautiful sometimes, and at others quite plain. He was sure (he thought his reactions out alone) that her times of beauty and plainness were what made his mind spin into desire and want.
So when she would say hello, he would return her greeting and move quickly on and imagine her close to him — just close, not touching and the idea was wonderful agony.
But he made sure he never told her. Not for the sake of her — he was almost (almost please take note) sure that she would accept his advances (let’s face it they were both not young) but his life was so perfect just thinking about her. Having her would be a different matter.
First, there was his cat. His cat was old and didn’t like his mother, let alone a possible lover. Then there was the fact that he liked being alone — not always, but most of the time. He was able to distract himself; HG Wells, F Scott Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, even a little Shakespeare when he had a few days off of work.
He spotted her after work. She had stopped by the little Italian restaurant and took a table right by the window.
The restaurant had taken an old retail store and converted it into a nice, quiet little eatery that everyone frequented. Of course, it was a perfect day for him, the clouds gray and low, the mist of rain in the air and the cold of winter in the wind; late autumn. One of those nights when the street lamps could not cut the gloom and the gray and the ghosts of the city’s past loomed in the shadows. There she sat next to the cold-to-the-touch window, a novel (he was sure it was a novel) before her and a thin waiter hovering around her with wine and cheese and what looked to be some wonderful pasta.
“What book were you reading last night?”
She blinked at him and he started to stutter a little. “I saw you reading at the restaurant last night, the little Italian…”
“Oh,” she smiled and looked a little relieved, “Jane Eyre. I always read Jane Eyre when I feel a little down.”
He wasn’t a stupid man. There was the gate, she just showed it to him – Jane Eyre, a little down, women were great with clues. She likes to read, she has different reading moods. He could ask what her good mood reads were, or why she was down.
“Oh, I’ve never read that novel, I’ll have to give it a try.”
Her face went a little steely, “Yeah when you’re depressed give it a try.” She grabbed her copies from the copy machine leaving him smiling bleakly at her back.
He did have sense enough to question his reaction when on the bus home. His apartment that night wasn’t necessarily the sanctum he loved. The cat would have nothing to do with him, sensing his agitation and the walls of the place seemed darker. He woke the next morning tired, achy and dreading work.
She wasn’t there, nor was she there the next day. He wanted to ask around — hey where was she but he didn’t want to seem interested around his co-workers.
He dreamed of her, she was sitting at the little Italian restaurant and he was the waiter. He was watching himself wait upon her while she read Jane Eyre. He watched himself not say a word to her, but he was never far.
“Pick up the book, you idiot, pick it up and throw it through the window.”
He watched himself pour her a little more wine. She lifted her head and smiled weakly in thanks — he could tell he was annoying her.
“Grab her and kiss her, the cat will get used to her.”
Even in his dream, he hated himself for wondering about his cat.
They met at the copy machine the next day.
“Haven’t seen you around.” He was tired from four nights of restless sleep and his voice sounded gravely and grouchy.
Her eyes widened just a little. “You okay?”
“Yeah, why?” What’s it to her? She had been away, somewhere, didn’t bother to tell him.
“You usually shave.”
He shrugged and looked at her. Today was one of her plain days, sexy in a strange sort of way. She held his eyes for a moment and seemed to make some sort of decision. “Do you like to read?”
“Yes.” The room started to expand around him, the world was vast and the people sparse, they were the only ones near the copy machine, the world was silent.
She waited just a moment, pressed her lips together, took a deep breath and asked, “What do you like to read?”
A shaft of light reflecting his apartment on cold winter nights, a good fire, a book, leather bound upon his lap and his cat next to him — a sigh of gratitude that he was his own man…
“Popular Mechanics mostly, not much on novels.”
He still watches her as she sits down once a week with her novel at the little Italian restaurant — those are her beautiful days.