The Hopeless Meet-Cute

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Entering the café, it’s hard not to notice every inch of wall space is taken up with books and inspiring quotes by famous authors. Old musty lounge chairs are scattered throughout, offering reading nooks for the midweek coffee and tea drinkers. New to the midweek cafe culture club, I can’t help but wonder “what do these people do for a living and how do I sign up?!”

I find a large communal table to sit at. Yes, position myself in the centre of everything, prime position, high observation possibility and line of sight to outside. My coffee arrives as I open my laptop and start my session.  While I’m here to do some writing I need to work on my poor excuse of a love life. Talking to guys, meeting guys, well, currently it’s more like looking at guys without going red. Two birds, one stone and all that….

Two guys walk in and look for seats, YES! They have to join the communal table. There isn’t enough space for the two of them so they sit right on the corner and one of them pulls up a stool. Men on stools just don’t go in my book—high knees and legs spread, like a giraffe trying to sit at a pre-schooler table. Not that appealing, which helps build up the courage to say something.

“Do you guys want me to move over so you can have a proper seat?”

“Nah it’s all good, we’re right here”.

Excellent, two cute boys in front of my face. And I spoke to them offering kindness. Points? Who’s keeping points?!

They were both Kiwis. One was obviously visiting the other who now lived here in Bondi. At first their conversation was really awkward, there was so much mindless chit chat that I thought they might have been on a date. “Great book store bro, heaps of books” (no shit). Then they started talking about home, visiting kiwi (Kiwi one) said he wished he could have met Kiwi two’s girlfriend (there goes one possibility, down to a 50/50 chance). There were lots of “yeah bro” “sick bro” and “nah bro”’’s then one started sharing photos from last night which must have been a stinger as they couldn’t remember them being taken. It sort of explained why they were a little weird—their brains weren’t working.

“Eat the bacon man, eat the bacon! Can’t let good bacon go to waste” Kiwi one goads.

“Nah bro, you have it. I’m not going to eat it.”

As they sucked the remnants out of their iced-drinks Kiwi one pats two on the back “Happy Birthday bro! Let’s get out of here”. As they get up I realise Kiwi two is pretty gangly, and a bit younger than me. But Kiwi one is cute!

In that nasily accent that many Kiwis have, one says, “Sorry, I hope we weren’t too loud”.

“Oh, no you guys were fine”. I make a smile but it’s one of those ones you don’t know if it just looks like you are pursing your lips or an actual smile is coming out. Crap! I should have said ‘Happy Birthday!’ Although the birthday boy was the one with the girlfriend. Shit, visiting Kiwi was cute. I watched them walk out the door, Kiwi one yelling out to staff to “have a good one aye” and thanking them for the great meal. What a guy! Polite, friendly, genuine. Could I have said something? Should I have interrupted when it was awkward? Would that have been more awkward? It’s not worth saying anything, they aren’t available so what’s the point. But maybe visiting Kiwi is my soulmate and how amazing would that story at our wedding be for how we met? That escalated quickly.

Ok. Round two. Cute guy sits at end of communal table with a latte and macbook. It makes me look sadly at my overgrown ASUS computer and realise why the girl in front of me seems to be so close, no it’s the laptop screen that is invading her side of the table as it’s so old! I digress. Ignoring the fact that that between me and Mr Mac there is a really pretty blonde, also on her macbook, I steal a quick look over at him. Maroon shirt, brown hair, a little stubble, not a beard, but not an “I’m trying to grow a beard but it’s just not happening” thing either.

It’s been a while since I first entered the café. Being new to unemployment and writing life I haven’t quite mastered the art of confidently sitting in one place having bought one coffee and using Wi-Fi all day. Time to repurchase. I’m feeling pretty good today in my walking gear, maybe It’d be good to get up, show Mr Mac my legs (people tell me I’ve got great legs, who am I to disagree). I’ve got my fierce tights on that are grey, black and white. I emulate a confident woman and stroll up to the counter and order another coffee. Flex the legs as I wait for my change. Stomach in, butt firm. As I get back to the table, I lean down to put my purse back into my backpack. Oh no, how old am I? A backpack? Don’t let him see it. Keep your arm low and he’ll never notice it. Getting back up, as my fingers grip the table, I realise they are kind of blue. Yeah, it’s actually really cold in here. Then I realise I’ve got no padding in my (ultra-confident) sports bra and the girls are high beaming. Oh no! Or, is that possibly a good thing? Shit did he see me look at them? Oh god, please no. Of course blondie over there is smart enough to be wearing a frilly girly top keeping these things up to the imagination. Oh my god, am I now looking at her girls now? Did Mr Mac see that?!

Shake it off. Back to what I was doing. Reading Reading Reading. Look up, boom! He looked at me! I smiled, and got scared and put my head back down. The café is buzzing with action, two women discussing the theory of life, a man reading the paper and doing a cross word puzzle, one girl who I am sure has picked up every book in the place and read the back cover. People are walking in and out and I realise this really personal stuff I am working on is right there for people to see. Zoom out to decrease to 60%. Lucky my eye sight is perfect (insert ‘ok’ emoji symbol).

“Hey man” says a tall hipster guy in standard hipster uniform – white t-shirt, denim and a skateboard. Man handshakes all around between Mr Mac and the new guy. Turns out Mr Mac is a ghost writer for some really boring domestic product. A writer! Kindred spirits! They will say that at our … not that spiral again. They talk for a bit and Mr Mac seems really cool. Farewell man shakes occur and Mr Mac is back to his ghost writing. What do I do?!

Some latino chick has sat down reading and takes a phone call. As I go to share a glare with her I realise we are not in a library and the main purpose of the café is for conversation not laptop wielding free loaders like me. “I need to speak to you, I am so lost today, I need you” BLA. Why are latinos always so passionate and firey? It all gets a bit yuck and space invading so Mr Mac starts to pack his things up. He seems to slowly be putting things in his bag (a backpack! How old is he?! Kindred spirits!) Could he be stalling? Maybe he is building up the courage to speak to me? Maybe to blondie? All the while I am building the courage to speak to him. Will someone give us some spinach or que wizard of oz or something!  Mr Mac passes me, I freeze (yes the girls too) and he flops his backpack on his shoulder and walks out. 

I’ve lost my chance. I look down then look at the door like a puppy waiting for his owner to return, Mr Mac turns around and we lock eyes. Is he coming back in the cafe?

The Old Boys

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I call them the ‘old boys’. They are a group of three, four, sometimes five gents walking in the mornings along a popular, picturesque coast walk. They advertise retirement so seductively banding together their morning stroll. Like the seven dwarfs, they are mix matched in height and belly fullness, their greying hair and baldness betraying their age of nothing less than sixty. In unison their gleaming white sneakers, ready for a dentist commercial, seem like their wives have put them through the washer after every walk. Their short white socks, stand tall on their legs trying to hide the bulging map of their varicose veins.

The old boys have a uniform. A crisp white shirt with the words only a witty grandfather knows how to deliver, inked on the back like a bumper sticker.

“Yes, I’m slow, I’m old—what’s your excuse?”

“I walk but I know I should do weights, but those things are heavy!”

My old boys laugh and bicker and whinge. They chuckle and retell devious encounters at the local RSL or compete with stories of pride about their families. Their conversations have a rhythm, the ‘old boys theme song’. They dance to it with a slow briskness where it’s almost as if their elbows and knees are attached with string so each stride has a jolt of movement as if controlled by a puppeteer.

I often stay behind them because it makes me smile, I want to be like them when I am that age. One time as I innocently walked perhaps a little too close in curiosity, I learnt they were actually survivors of prostate cancer, and their group was one of companionship, support and solidarity. A lump reached my throat instantly at that realisation and I started to look forward to seeing them on my walks knowing they were fighters, and lovers too.

Today, I see my old boy ‘Brian’. It’s not a fact his name is Brian, but I named each of the old fellas to make up stories about them. Brian looks strong willed with strong big hands, perhaps a farmer or tradesman in his working days. I imagine he’s the silent, deep type, as opposed to old mate ‘Wiley’. He’s definitely the talker of the group and since he’s the shortest he seems constantly out of breath from keeping up and crackling with laughter. As I get closer, Brian’s trademark short brimmed white sun hat hides dark circles under his eyes. He looks at me, a smile escaping a numb face then he looks back to the pavement as we walk past each other.

Where is the crew? Where are my boys? I frantically start to remember the last few days and when our paths crossed on the track. Have I changed my time? Have they changed theirs? Last week, was it just a few of them that I saw? Or was that last month? In a panic of thought I had unconsciously looped the track and saw Brian again coming towards me. Is he ok? Where are the boys? Do I stop and ask? Absently he looked out to the ocean, his hands slowly swaying forwards and backwards. He seemed much slower than usual, like the weights his t-shirt talked about where actually on his shoulders. As we again were about to pass one another, my heart beat fast and I knew I wanted to reach out to him. I stepped right into his path making us stop abruptly. Our heads slowly looked up and our eyes met in acknowledgement, yet fear.

“Hello”.

I Don’t Want to do This Alone

Strong independent single women don’t want to admit it. When they have followed their passion and built their own empire around them, they don’t want to say it out loud. To people. With ears. “I want to find love, I don’t want to do this alone anymore”.

Kate was about to stand up in a room heaving with women clawing for inspiration and motivation to grow their own business. She felt like a fraud. She dabbed the sweat on her upper lip with her speech cards. She was proud of what she had achieved and wanted to share her story of hard work and determination. But would feminist groups hunt her down if she told the truth? Was the women movement resting on her shoulders if she said she wished the outcome of her life was a little different?

“Out in 10 Kate” barked one of the faceless event coordinators rushing around. Shit. Was it getting hot in here? Her breath was heavy and warm and felt as if it was creating a shield deterring her from moving toward the stage. The roar of applause sounded behind the wall and she knew her freak out time was up. Shaking her head, she plastered a smile on her face and walked confidently onto that stage. She tapped the cards on the podium. Pause. She fanned her heat struck face. Pause. In a moment of clarity she envisioned herself in the front row of the crowd. What would she tell her younger self if she had the chance? Taking the mic, Kate lifted her head and began.