I sat at the window bar at Starbucks with my feet propped up on an extra chair, reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and drinking a peppermint mocha, my favorite Christmas-time drink. I glanced out the window and saw a guy somewhere between twenty-five and thirty walking up the steps with a pineapple under his arm. Not a chopped pineapple, but a whole one. Well you don’t see that every day, I thought, and went back to reading.
Two minutes later he sat down two chairs away and said, “I hope you don’t mind if I sit here,” while setting down not only the pineapple, but a plate of watermelon slices and a bag of grapes.
“No, go ahead,” I told him. “It’s not every day I see somebody walking around with a pineapple.”
“Well, I just came from Kroger,” he said, “and I figure I just buy what I want instead of filling my fridge full of crap I won’t eat.” There was probably some kind of logic in there somewhere, but I wasn’t sure I could find it. “Do you want some?”
“Nooo, thanks,” I said.
He was cute in a guy-next-door kind of way, with blue eyes and sandy hair. He held out his hand and introduced himself; I forgot his name almost immediately but gave him mine.
“You look very friendly,” he informed me. “Like a very friendly person. I hope I do.”
“Well, you sure act like it, anyway,” I told him.
He beamed. “Thank you!” He popped open the bag of grapes. “By the way, I like your jewelry.” He gestured toward my accessories – everything was gold, from the earrings and necklaces to my nose ring. “I’m a jeweler, so I notice jewelry.”
“Really,” I said.
“Yes. I’m the best jeweler in the world.”
I muffled a laugh. “Is that right?”
“Yes, because I might not be the most talented jeweler, but I’m always open to learning. Besides, my dad does it and he’s been doing it for forty years, so like – what could I possibly teach him?” He told me that his grandfather was a jeweler, too. It ran in the family, and somewhere along the way he moved into the chair next to me.
Then he stretched and said, “Owww, I’m so sore from kickboxing this morning.”
“Yeah.” He pulled up the corner of his shirt to show me a toned oblique. “That muscle right there gets the most sore. See, feel it – lots of knots.”
I poked it and said dryly, “Sounds like you need a chiropractor. Or a masseuse.”
“Hey, do you want to become a masseuse? I could use it,” he said winningly, his elbow touching mine.
“No,” I said. “My hands wouldn’t last long enough.”
“Right?” he said, rolling with it. He pulled out his phone to answer a text. “I’m going to text one of my girlfriends and tell her I’m having a great time meeting awesome new people.”
“One of your girlfriends?” I teased. “What, do you have a harem?”
“Well, that’s the ideal,” he informed me. “But I keep them all happy, so.”
Before I could lose my composure and laugh my head off, my sister called to tell me that she and mom were on their way to pick me up, so I put my things away and told him I needed to leave.
“Awh, that’s a shame,” he said with a sigh. “I’m going to get on that motorcycle out there and ride off, then.”
I glanced out at the motorcycle in the parking lot. “Sure thing. It was nice meeting you,” I told him, although ‘nice’ wasn’t quite as accurate as ‘anecdotal.’
“You too, Mirriam,” he told me, and I felt slightly guilty for not remembering his name, but not guilty enough to ask for it again as I headed outside.
[Bonus tale: as I stood outside, waiting for the car, I watched a portly middle-aged man unpacking book boxes from the trunk of his car. He called across the parking lot with, “DON’T WORRY, I’M JUST CLEANING OUT MY BASEMENT AND TURNING THESE IN AT SECOND AND CHARLES.” I called back, “THAT’S A GOOD PLACE FOR IT.” “IT IS,” he replied, struggling with the boxes. “DO YOU NEED HELP?” I shouted. “NO,” he huffed, finally shutting the trunk. Then he asked, “DO YOU NEED A RIDE?” I grinned. “NO THANKS, I’M BEING PICKED UP.” “OKAY,” he yelled, and just then the Pineapple Guy walked across the parking lot and waved before getting on his motorcycle.]
Half an hour later I settled into one of the chairs by the window of Nature’s Corner, a small store by the Daily Grind, my favorite coffee shop. Since I prefer to read rather than shop, I opened the book again and began to read. An elderly man with a red Starbucks cup walked up and stood there awkwardly for a moment – I glanced up and smiled at him, but when he didn’t smile back, I shrugged inwardly and returned to reading. A moment later he asked in a hoarse, trembling voice, “Do you mind if I sit down?”
I told him I didn’t mind, and he sat, staring out the window behind me in silence for several minutes. Then, because I don’t particularly enjoy ignoring somebody two feet away from me, I put the book away and asked, “Are you here with anybody?”
“Yes.” He glanced around the store. “There’s a girl here…somewhere.”
“Ah,” I said.
He glanced at his empty cup. “Do you want this, um…thing?”
“No, thanks,” I said, “I actually just had one.”
The silence stretched thin before I said, “I’m Mirriam.”
“I’m Ed,” he told me. “Ed…Edward Arame. A-R-….A-M-E.”
“That sounds like an English name,” I said. “It’s cool.”
Something sparked in his pale blue eyes, and his voice was a little stronger as he said, “It is English. I’m from England. I was raised there.”
I still couldn’t detect an accent – he sounded Southern, but I said, “That’s amazing! What part?”
“It…uh….the…” He struggled with remembering before he gave up and said, “There were lots of people. What’s your name again?”
“Mirriam,” I said. “Why did you move here?”
His response was difficult to make out – something about a sign, or an ad, with big letters. I wasn’t quite sure. Then he asked, “Are you waiting for a boy?”
“No,” I said, smiling. “I don’t have one?”
He blinked and asked with flattering surprise, “You don’t?”
“Nah. I turn them all down.”
He sighed. “I know. I’m, um…very turn-down-able.”
“Oh, but I didn’t turn you down,” I said gently. “I told you that you could sit with me.”
Just then a woman in of about forty, wearing a bright sweater, walked up. “Hey, dad! Time to go,” she urged, brisk but pleasant. She gave me an apologetic smile, the kind that said I’m sorry if he’s been bothering you.
“Go?” Ed blinked. “Go where?”
“Domino’s, and then your house.”
“My house?” he asked in shock.
“Yeah, your house, remember?”
“How about that,” he said, amazed.
“I’ll be right back,” his daughter said, whisking away.
“She seems nice,” I told him as he stood.
“She is nice. Oh – ultra nice.”
She was back again, taking his arm, but he stepped toward me and held out his hand as if to shake it. When I reached up, he clasped my hand and said, with an expression more clear than before, “Thank you.”
That’s when I heard it – the English accent, hidden under years of living in the South, and my thought echoed his voice.
How about that.