Alice, her fingers restless, entered the bustling dining area unnoticed. The absurdity of it all amused her. People were rushing about, randomly speaking to one another only to be interrupted by a friend, perhaps stranger, striking up fresh conversation. Amidst the chaotic action of the prosperous small café, she decided to sit herself purposefully at the first vacant booth that caught her eye.
She had searched the town for this café, looking for the best - the one with the most people. After passing through several and rejecting the advances of civilized men throwing themselves at her, as if she were anything special, she fell into in the quaint Café V.
Everyone else, busy with their own conversations and private lives didn't even notice her arrival. Coughing on cigarettes, Alice had almost decided that this café, though busy, had nothing to offer when a dashing boy, he could only be called boy, began speaking to her. With a blank stare, Alice nodded her head as the boy said something or other about the events this past weekend.
Of course he's like all the others, she thought. He has long straight hair, of which he thought way too much; unfortunately, the brown locks, perhaps blond when clean, was foreign to the mundane phenomena of the daily shower. For fun, he probably played some violent computer game and carted himself around on a skateboard or in-line skates. She pictured some Californian skating between little orange pylons. If he's male, he'll be wearing maternal blue jeans. Females wear a bikini top, maybe a sports bra if modest or less endowed, and shorts that give them their meaning.
"Let me introduce myself," the boy was saying. She barely had time to protest-
"My name's Harry. Excuse me, but I just came in and saw that everyone else was already involved in a conversation, and I was about to leave but then I'm bored," Alice thought something other than boredom was driving him, "and then I saw you."
She was offended by this boy's outright betrayal of her space.
"But," Alice began, intending to seek refuge behind her cold wall of isolation.
"Oh oh oh," the boy blushed, realizing he had to think quick, "I saw you sitting here by yourself so I decided it wouldn't hurt to just come and speak with you." The boy was redundant, though Alice was naively amused at Harry's inept pickup lines.
She smiled faintly, happy to have an eager harmless guest to keep her company. Alice was always most lonely when surrounded by the animated conversations of her energetic peers. Harry must have sensed her approval, for his stare begged a response.
"Alice, such a pretty name," said Harry
Alice, caught off guard, said "How did you know?" She realized her mistake, looking down at her name tag. Then she laughed; she was excited and cautious. Harry struck her as a witty companion and obviously found Alice very attractive.
The two sat in awkward silence eavesdropping on humanity.
"Hey - wanna go into the back and talk in private?" A strange man with a goatee asked a rather large woman with a goatee of her own.
Shrugging her shoulders, rubbing her hands in her lap stretching her fingers, Alice asked, "how long you been doing this?"
"You know, hanging around this café." She wished she had some coffee. Alice was sleepy.
"Shut the hell up! Of course the X-Files-" a loud voice, interrupted.
"Uh, I don't know," Harry replied. "I kinda hang around this place because it's easy to find interesting people to talk to. Hey, I have a poem for you. Would you like to hear it?"
"Sure!" Alice beamed.
"That's nice," Alice responded, wondering what it meant.
"Wanna talk about sex?"
Alice got up and fixed herself some coffee. When she returned, another woman had jumped in her chair. Harry was holding her hand, whispering in her ear. The girl, with a disgusting flirtatious grin, jumped back pretending to be shocked. Harry caught Alice's gaze, and shrugged his dismissive shoulders.
She set the coffee on the table, alienated even from Café V, and decided to call it a night.
Alice didn't feel ashamed of her sexual encounter, nor did she mind Harry's infidelity. Stretching her arms, arching her back, Alice stood up from the desk, switching off the computer. She hoped tomorrow she might find someone to steal her cold wall away. Though she slept deeply, her fingers were anxious.
back to the Short Story Page.Café V, 6 August 1998