Thursday, November 03, 2005

Mind you, Gerald was never the kind of guy to believe in love at first sight. Or at aliens wanting to come to our planet to sexually assault its men. Or maybe even of the tooth fairy and Santa Clause since he could not fathom why anyone would want to spend the rest of their lives collecting teeth or giving away free gifts by the billions in a single night. There was a sense of logical purpose that was required for Gerald to accept something the way it was.

And yet, there he was, staring at her sitting at the seat just behind the one he was to return to. He was watching her slouch at her chair, holding the magazine that had earlier been the focus of their very brief non-conversation in her right hand, while her left hand lazily stirred her coffee. He only noticed her clothes at this point; a long sleeved olive green shirt that was worn beneath a short-sleeved white tee, dark blue (nearly black) jeans and a pair of olive green slip-ons. He noticed she had a small backpack on the seat just beside hers and noticed how thankfully there did not seem to be any hint or clue of her having a possible companion that moment.

All he needed to do was come to her, introduce himself, and ask if he could join her.

And as expected, to do so was an act of great self-esteem and ego, neither of which Gerald particularly kept much stock of. The numerous times of having been embarrassingly turned down flashed before his mind’s eye in an eye blink. There was the blonde exchange student from California who stared at her and asked, “This is a joke, right?” There was the shy writer from a book-launching he attended to shook her head to rapidly say no before darting away and vanishing into the crowd. There was even that time in the grocery when he noticed a particularly attractive woman unsuccessfully trying to lift a box of 1.5 liter soda into her cart. He came up to her, helped transfer the soda, and beamed his biggest smile in her direction as he tried to find the words to introduce himself. She smiled, shook his hand, then introduced her six foot four gym-loving boyfriend who was too busy finding the right protein shake to drink.

Gerald did not particularly think he had a bad string of luck when it came to love. Definitely not considering the fact that out there were Beavises and Buttheads who still think women find breast jokes appealing, or Johnny Bravos who think larger muscles was all that mattered. No, Gerald did not bury himself in that kind of self-destructive self-esteem. Rather, he believed that anything bad that happened was simply the world reminding you that there was someone one else out there. And if not, then at least they had their own versions of Jenna Garbino.

Jenna. He had almost forgotten about Jenna. Or even more honestly, he had only remembered Jenna was already part of his life that moment. Gerald struggled internally with his conscience, suddenly frightfully aware that he had just erased from his mind Jenna’s existence when he had met (well, not really met but) the magazine woman. Was it a sign, perhaps? A divinely delivered clue that stated he had finally found the person who was meant for him? Some kind of unspoken missive from his own beating heart that he had finally found the “someone” to whom he can allow himself to become vulnerable to and look like a fool with?

“Are you going to keep staring at her or what?”

Gerald jerked backwards in what was almost an attempt to run away and flee. He turned to the sound of the voice and found a rather ape-looking man grinning at him with a newspaper in his hand. He was taller than Gerald was, with a face that reminded Gerald of the upcoming King Kong movie Peter Jackson was directing. Realising the man had noticed him staring, Gerald felt a hint of embarrassed shame dance in his cheeks.

“What are you-” Gerald began.

“The sweetie,” the ape-man asked aloud as he tucked the newspaper he had gotten into his armpit, “You were staring at my sweetheart.”

“I’m sorry,” Gerald replied, suddenly having visions of him flying through the glass wall. Or him feeling one of the ape-man’s meaty fists landing on his cheek, popping a tooth as he tumbled onto the ground. “I wasn’t-“

“You were staring. What, you kids don’t get enough of breasts to look at online?”

“I wasn’t,” Gerald protested and quickly made his way back to his seat. He nervously shook his head and found the courage to look up as the ape-man walked passed him and gave an audible huff of disapproval.

Gerald heard the ape-man pull one of the chairs from the table behind him and sit down. The shock of realizing he actually heard the moment the ape-man sat down hit him a few seconds later. Conflicting urges struck Gerald as he raised his own cappuccino to his lips; should he run away? Head home? Escape before the ape-man decided to have a little bit more fun on his expense? Finally practice those karate moves he learned years ago when he was still in high school?

“The freak was looking at you,” the ape-man uttered and Gerald realized what was happening. He was telling her that he caught Gerald staring! He was breaking the unwritten rules and informing the target of a man’s attentions that she was being stared at! And even worse, she would most likely look back, see him, and recall how much a pathetic loser he was when he couldn’t even speak up against her to keep the magazine.

“He was staring at you, probably staring at your tits or something,” the ape-man continued his report; each word made Gerald cringe even more. Nearly spilling his coffee, Gerald set the cappuccino down and wiped his forehead which was slowly dotting with sweat. He glanced at the exit and mentally calculated the number of seconds it would take to walk to it and leave. Visions of the whole population of the café staring at him like some man adorned with the scarlet letter of staring came to mind. Or maybe it would be something more dramatic, like them all throwing at him used coffee grind and the woman suddenly rushing between them, demanding that he who is without the urge to stare at a woman’s bosom fling the first handful of used coffee. Followed by Gerald feeling the sharp earthly slap as one of the present gay metrosexuals throws that said handful with the accuracy of a military missle.

“He probably was gathering material for his spank bank or something,” ape-man amusedly contributed more to the accusation and Gerald felt the urge to defend himself rising to his chest. “Probably took a picture of you in his head, tits and all, so he can like imagine you having these pivot points like in them motion capture movies? You know, to animate you fucking in all these positions. Like on the table or in outer space or something,” the ape-man added and Gerald decided he had enough. It was one thing to be caught staring at another’s girl. It was another thing entirely to actually be accused of Industrial Light and Magic-ing another woman’s image for sexual release.

Gerald took a deep draught of coffee into his system, slammed the paper cup down on the table, rose from his seat and turned to magazine woman directly behind him as he exclaimed, “I was NOT looking at your tits!”

A silence grew into the café. Like an immaculate conception, the pause grew pregnant very quickly.

“Sorry?” the magazine woman looked up at Gerald with an innocent and confused smile, “I wasn’t… complaining?”

Gerald’s eyes trailed to the next table just past magazine-woman’s and saw ape-man sitting with his wavy haired, botoxed girlfriend who obviously had taken a visit to the famous Dr. Belo. Girlfriend’s amplified bosom shook on its own as its carried-woman craned her nearly wax-museum smooth skin covered neck to see him better.

“That’s him,” ape-man grinned and botox woman offered what in all senses looked like a very plastic smile.

Gerald felt like a balloon that was suddenly released from its string. With all the courage and readiness to argue escaping him in a single second, Gerald grabbed his paper cup of cappuccino, turned around, and made for the door. He felt their eyes watching him, perhaps even taunting him, as he walked out of the café and made for the relative privacy offered by the sea of strangers ignorant of his embarrassing escapade just seconds ago.

He felt humiliated. Angry. And Sad.

He never got to ask for her name.

Word Count = 1482
Previous Count = 1612
Total Count = 3094
of 50,000


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