We met at a cafe outside Madrid. I was sitting by myself at a small table facing the street, drinking a glass of beer. It was hot in the sun and the cold glass felt nice and the beer tasted damn good. I was ostensibly trying to write a story to send back to the newspaper because I needed the money. But, on this day, I couldn't concentrate. There were no distractions at the table, and that's what was distracting me. It was calm and breezy, and I felt good. I have to be in a foul mood to start writing.
She was sitting at a table under the awning quietly smoking a cigarette and thumbing through what looked like an old novel. The book had a cracked red leather cover-- the kind you find on out of reach shelves in the library or on the bookshelf of a wealthy friend's study. As a rule, these books are usually pretty awful and only read when one has too much time. That told me that this girl has money and didn't know how to spend her time. I took a liking to her.
Now I've courted my fair share of women in the past and I've learned how not to approach a stranger. Simply walking up and plopping onto the chair next to her will only scare her. No, you have to baste the turkey before you put it in the oven. I prepped her by purposefully being accidentally caught staring at her. I need her to think that she has caught me. And she fell for it. When she caught me, I playfully snapped back to reality, mimed an apology, and theatrically laughed to myself as I turned back to my notepad. To her, I am a bit of an eccentric with a sense of humor who has shown an interest in her. Perfect.
I order another beer and mentally prepare myself. The only precondition to courtship is that she successfully tries to purposefully get caught accidentally staring at me in return. So, when I put down my pen and look up from my notepad, if she is coyly looking at me from behind her boring novel, then I know I'm in.
She was looking at me. We make eye contact. We smile.
Make a move or lose her forever.
I rise slowly from my little white table, place the cap on my pen, put it down, and then slowly walk towards her table. By this time, she is well aware that I am coming towards her and gracefully places her crap novel on the table, using her napkin as a page holder. Clever. She watches me approach.
"Hey there” she says, informally.
"How did you know I speak English?"
"I overheard you butchering your Spanish to the waiter." She's been paying attention.
"Any tips on pronunciation?"
"It's hielo. Not kielo." Apparently I've been saying "ice" wrong for seven years.
"Thanks. What are you drinking?"
"Sherry." Sherry always reminds me of Poe. Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from sherry.
I sit down next to her. Wow, she smells good. Really nice. Too many women wear perfume that is too strong or too stringent. She smells great. It relaxed me and I subconsciously smiled.
“Why are you smiling?”
“You smell very nice.”
“I’m not wearing anything.”
A boy could only wish. Chemical attractions exist between people. Call them pheromones or whatever you like—sometimes I can smell attraction. Put two people in an empty room and sometimes no words need to be exchanged. The attraction is instant. It’s in the air. Seeing her up close and smelling her, I knew that I needed to have her.
“What are you reading?” I say, trying to change the subject so that I can avoid a potentially embarrassing biological reaction suddenly growing in my trousers.
“Byron.” She’s so smart, she doesn’t even feel the need to elaborate who Byron is. Sure, I kind of know him, but I’m not about to start a conversation about it.
“What brings you to a little café like this?”
“Well,” I begin, with characteristic enthusiasm, “I’m a student but one day I hope to be a failed writer.” I heard some other guy say that once in Paris. She laughs. She’s beautiful. Her eyes are a soft hazel, her skin olive, and her hair is perfectly soft. I can’t look away from her.
After a few moments, I gain the ability to speak. “Come out with me tonight. To dinner. Me and you.” I try taking charge of the situation. Girls like that.
My chest sinks.
“I have to go.”
“I have to go now. My train leaves in an hour.”
Once again, I lost the ability to speak. I blankly stared at her. I lost all feeling and all emotion. I was empty.
“I’m sorry. This is awful.”
“Yeah.” I say.
I paid for both our drinks and stumbled home.