An Awkward Conversation

“I don’t know why I’ve always been so misunderstood.”

Looking up from my steaming coffee, I watched my new table mate sit down.  No invitation was offered or accepted; he just decided to bend my ear.  I was perplexed at his opening salvo.  All I could manage was, ”Oh?”

He nodded subtly.  “I’m really an optimist, trying to see the best in people and helping them when I can.  But people say the worst things about me.”  He shook his head slightly, sighing as he looked down at the table.  “ I’ve never forced anyone to really do anything,” he said quietly.

Sipping my coffee, I took a more studied look at him.  His hair was dark and brushed back.  If this was 1958, he probably would have worn a DA, but now in 2013 he wore it shorter and slightly spiky.   But there was definitely a nod to that duck’s ass.  It wasn’t so long as to be a mullet, but it was just short of becoming one. There was a slight, well groomed point to his sideburns as if to punctuate some as of yet unvoiced hypothesis.

“You’d think all I ever did was take advantage of people and make their lives miserable.    Honestly, I just listen and try to help.”  He sipped his drink.  It smelled like a chai latte.  He  wiped his mouth and the sun sparkled off his sharkskin jacket.  It was more of burnt sienna than true red.  It was an odd choice for a winter afternoon.

“Do you like my Jacket?  It’s my favorite color, though for some reason people think of me as more of a bright red kind of guy.  I wish I liked blue more; I like black, but this isn’t Manhattan.”  I realized he had a black silk shirt under the jacket, diamond studded cuff links were just visible at his cuff.  There wasn’t anything subtle about his appearance.

“Honestly,” he continued, “I just want to help people realize their dreams.  I don’t judge their dreams or try to change them.”  His mouth twitched to a mournful smile.  “Is it my fault that people rarely think through what they want, what they believe they need?”  He shook his head.  “I don’t think so either.”

“You would have thought the old story The Monkey’s Paw was about me.  I have no idea where W.W. Jacobs got that idea.  And I never met Daniel Webster.”  I noticed as a turned his head, scars at his hairline on both sides of his head.  Not symmetrical, but close.  The device that made those scars was not as sharp as it could have been.

I took another sip of my coffee.  I looked at my cup; it was black with candy apple red letters, sparkling like gold leaf.  Diablo Coffee it said.  I had always assumed it was named for the mountain behind me.  I wondered.  To this point my contribution to the conversation had been a single syllable.  I wasn’t sure I had much to offer and was considering just letting him finish his monologue. Maybe he’d move on.

“ I’ve never tricked anyone into doing anything they didn’t want to do.  Robert Johnson? I didn’t do anything, other than give him a pep talk.  Why do people always lump me in with the deep blue sea?  We aren’t conjoined twins.  Do you think Mick Jagger really did me any favors suggesting that I needed sympathy? Not at all.”  For an instant I was sure his eyes shone red.  And then it was gone.

“Why are you telling me this,” I asked cautiously.

He pointed over to the corner where one of my coworkers sat.  “He says that you are a source of great career advice.  I think I’m ready for some.”  I was stunned.

Talk about pressure.

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  1. Wonderful story, Lee!


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