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Reimagining Cole

Cole was sitting in his favorite booth at Baker's Square, all alone as usual stirring one cream after another into his coffee, trying to mask the bitter taste. Eating out everyday wasn't cheap, but he felt this inexplicable need to be around other people even when the only interaction was in the pleasantries exchanged and the banal ritual of ordering and receiving services tendered with vacant eyes and empty smiles.

The Minnesota sky seen through the picture windows was like a bright blue bowl, its contents running down the sides of the world disappearing into long lines of green-leafed trees. The wind was laughing like a giant, ruffling the leaves and chasing up skirls in the dirt as cars sped down the two-lane road that passed for a highway in these parts. Even beautiful weather wasn't enough to truly cheer him up and break through a deep sense of boredom and melancholy.

Looking around desultorily, Cole noted the now familiar groups; some were retired folks whiling away the day, a few were teenagers off for the summer and stuck hanging out with parents and one or two business people looking out of place, but they filled up the restaurant nicely.

The food was only so-so here and today it was taking forever, but he kept coming back anyway. They never bothered about him sitting there, taking up space; even when it got crowded no one bothered him about his 12 cups of coffee or his two hour long lunch spent staring off into space.

Watching the flight of a seagull nowhere near the sea, his eyes snagged on something new, something out of place to contemplate. It was a red fingernail, the acrylic kind, just sitting there on the window sill right where some customer had left it. Cole tried to look away, but once spied, it intrigued him. How long had it been there, he thought, intrigued more than offended. What kind of person had it belonged to?

He imagined all the groups of people that must have sat in his favorite booth since it had been lost. Did they notice it? Wonder about it? He wanted to reach out, to touch it, but in the end he didn't; he left it to tell its tale to someone else who cared enough to notice it sitting there, a testament to a life made real by observation.

She was a blonde, he thought, imagining her sliding into the booth across from him. A tall and voluptuous woman, the kind to make other women jealous and wistful at the same time. She'd have long, dirty-blonde hair, dark at the roots which she'd hide with a cowboy hat, chosen to coordinate with her dress and worn whenever she was outside. She would have requested this booth one evening not too long ago and sat facing the door opposite him with a good view of the parking lot. She was waiting for someone. Some people might have mistaken her for a floozy (as the old folks would've termed a woman like her way-back-when), but the tight red dress with bright red nails and 4" black leather stilettos where just for show, a little fun to spice up small town living. They provided no reflection on her inner self which tended to be whip-crack smart, over-achieving and generally unlucky in love. Cole could picture everything about that night and he watched it as it played out in his mind like he was watching a movie in the theater.

She'd rushed to Baker's Square as fast as she could before she lost her nerve and didn't meet him. She'd thrown on some "date" clothes, painted her face and gotten out the door, her heart pounding as if someone was going to come after her and stop her. That someone being the voice of her better reason, of course.

The man Christine was expecting was supposedly equally as tall as she, with short brown hair, kind brown eyes and a little on the heavy side, his name was Jeremiah, but he said everyone called him "Jay." She was on an internet dating adventure and she didn't know what to expect. They had e-mailed back and forth a few times, exchanging pleasant nothings and then moved on to chatting online and then finally talking on the phone. After talking on the phone for hours it just seemed stupid not to meet when they only lived a few minutes apart-but still-she'd been burned by men before so she was a little wary. The cell phone sat on the table. Her car, not the one she'd given a description of, was parked outside the front door.

She really preferred tea, but tonight Christine was drinking coffee, dark and sweet. It didn't cut the bitterness or the nerves. Tap, tap, tap went the nails as the seconds ticked away past 8 o'clock. Swish, click, click, click went the spoon in the coffee cup creating another bitter-sweet brew. He was late. Was he coming? Where was he, she thought, agitated.

Single men paraded in, one every few minutes, each settling in a booth or at a nearby table. An older man with a confident businessman's step walked in with his newspaper under his arm. A young man with greasy hair and shifty eyes sat and ordered a soda. Then a good looking man with dark hair and brown eyes came in, with a beautiful woman on his arm.

She waited, watching the sun slowly sink down. She could never get over how late the sun set in the Northern summer, no one could really. She knew him as soon as she saw him standing hesitantly at the door. Not quite what he promised, but at least his pictures had been real, if a bit out of date. This man looked like the photo's older brother, but that was alright, she wasn't picky about looks or age, just personality.

Jay saw her and she fluffed her hair nervously. She wanted to bite her nails, but looked down as she raised her hand in the habitual gesture. Thwarted, she want back to lightly tapping her fingers to the piped in top 40's, her eyes averted so she could think while pretending she didn't see him. Jay walked slowly and he was more than "a little" on the heavy side, but he did have kind brown eyes. All alarms screamed, friend, friend, friend, but then he smiled and his face was transformed. He had those deep dimples to match a tiny cleft in his chin. Jay reached over to shake her hand, he had small smooth hands, but even that was forgiven when he said, "Hello, beautiful blue eyes." He cleared his throat and tugged on his ridiculous Hawaiian shirt as he slid into the booth. Meeting her raised eyebrows waiting for an explanation of being half an hour late, he blurted, "I was looking for something to wear." Christine wanted to laugh at the way the tops of his ears turned red while the rest of his face went white with embarrassment. He definitely wasn't a good liar, she thought. His honesty won out over the lack of manly response and over the lateness and even the Hawaiian shirt.

Christine shared her love of art and photography and Jay replied with his love of music and hopes to travel to see the Amazon someday. They laughed together over silly things like a mutual hate of tomatoes and listened as each shared more than they had planned of life's frustrations. "Mmmm, pie?" he asked, lazily tracing shapes across her fingers. For once she didn't have to feel self-conscious about ordering desert. Two slices of decedent chocolate peanut butter pie disappeared as they finished several pots of terrible coffee, but conversation never lagged.

No one paid them any mind as they leaned over the table and held hands while looking deep into each other's eyes like they'd been together a lifetime as full night finally fell outside.

"Come back to my place," he said and she said, "Yes," forgetting everything, playing one more round for true love.

They slid from the vinyl bench, his arm sliding along that clinging red material, pulling her waist close to his. He flopped down some cash and counted him self an extremely lucky man as they walked out into the cool parking lot. Just beyond the door, his hand was already roaming along her side. He looked sideways at her, she played shy, but she really wasn't. He kissed her, leaning her against his beloved car, holding her lightly, tasting her deep red lips. He imagined her spread eagle on the hood of his blue Thunderbird and wished they were alone.

In the morning, Christine looked down as she was typing and noticed she was missing one red fingernail. She smiled as she thought of Jay and began to peel them off one-by-one.

Aroused from his reverie by the cold blast of the air conditioning switching on, Cole looked out at the darkening night sky. He looked accusingly at the empty seat across from him. His eyes skipped again to the red fingernail and he decided to leave it to tell stories.
Kick and Fail
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Upload Date: 31/12/1969

Downloads: 1083

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