When I looked across the cafe, filled with urban young people like me in casual clothes, staring at their phones, he stood out. He is *other* among us. The one many will strive to be but in reality few will attain.
I stare at him for a long time, wondering who he is and why he chose this place, dressed so beautifully, on a Saturday afternoon when he looks up and meets my gaze.
“I bailed on my wedding,” he says coldly. There is no way for me to hide my disgust, my fury based on nothing more than feminine solidarity. “How young you are,” the man adds quietly. “How quickly you stand in judgment, ready to convict a stranger for unknown, but clearly despicable, crimes against womanhood.”
Part of me wants to fight him based on years of shitty boyfriends and catcalls on the street but I pause and when I look back many years later, I will see it as the turning point from the me then into the woman I eventually became…that I fought to become.
He closes his laptop, puts it in an expensive case, stands, and glances through the window to the sunny street beyond. “I was young once. I believed in love and happily ever afters. How naive my beliefs seem to me now.” Looking at me, he grants me a sad smile. “May you never cross paths with the sort of creature I now own myself to be. May you find the average man willing to do all the things the media suggests are required to be *real.* Enjoy your coffee.”
He walks though the door of the cafe and I cannot understand the things bubbling up inside me. I follow him.
On the sidewalk, I shout, “Wait!” He turns as he’s about to enter the back of a taxi and frowns. “I need to know.”
“Your curiosity isn’t my problem.”
I approach and look up into a face that was likely too pretty at my age but had morphed into warm and likeable features. Attractive but not too much. He stared back and I knew he saw a person that was often described as “too dark,” “too thin,” and “too ethnic.” I liked my face, my body, and my skin.
“Will you make it your problem?”
We stood there for ten seconds before he stepped back and gestured to the cab.
I got in.
© Shayne McClendon
PS: If you love short stories, I hope you’ll check out the following collections by my three alter egos (more are available but here are the first volumes of each)…
Quickies – Volume One (by Shayne McClendon)
The Others – Volume One (by Sabrina Rue)
Bang! – Volume One (by Charlize Rojos)