Desia & Ian: 1982
She smoked a clove cigarette, taking short draws of smoke into her lungs and letting it out in thin, curling wisps by the side of her mouth. Between every few drags, she took long sips of steaming tea from a gigantic ceramic mug. All of this while never taking her eyes from the page on which she was writing, not once looking up. She sat at a small table near the back of the cafe, against one wall, facing the door. Her comfort zone.
Outside, the crowds had drifted down the street, taking their noise with them. Only distant drum beats and the occasional yell could be heard from the parade that had seemingly everyone in town on the streets. She did not like crowds, even when she wasn’t writing. Glancing up briefly at the blissfully empty room, she knew her time here was limited; that soon the crowds would burst through the weathered door, drowning out the cafe’s peaceful soundtrack. Bringing with them the cacophony of over-stimulated children up way past their bedtimes, and parents reveling in a rare night out. She figured she had time enough to finish her tea and the chapter, with perhaps one last clove as a reward.
Outside he fought through the masses, keeping his hands deep within the pockets of his leather trench coat. At 6 feet 4 inches, he had the advantage of a clear view over most people’s heads, expertly weaving through the crowd, looking for open spots to pass through quickly. He hated crowds, they could be so unpredictable. But he forged through, knowing the now-empty cafe was just around the corner and up three blocks. He could already taste the bittersweet flavor of the house roasted coffee he would enjoy, in the quiet corner of his favorite local spot.
Black rimmed eye met black rimmed eye the moment Ian swung open the heavy, old door. His glance was naturally non-committal, yet remained on the unexpected individual sitting near the back, casually smoking with one hand and holding a poised pen with the other.
Desia’s eyes flitted back to her near-full page, nervously toying with the spiked ends of her jet black hair. ‘Better wrap it up’ she thought to herself, the crowds will be right behind him. She downed the last of the tea and began clear the small table of her belongings. From the corner of her eye, she watched the tall stranger chatting easily with the barista, paying for his coffee. Now and then she thought she saw him looking her way, but couldn’t be absolutely sure without looking up.
Men did not normally pay much attention to Desia, unless it was to show off in front of their friends or girlfriends by making fun of her. The punk rock look still shocked most people, made them slightly afraid of her, even though she took great care with her hair, makeup and style. This suited Desia well, as she found most people to be severely lacking in character and personality, preferring her own company rather than suffering others. Not that she didn’t have friends, but most of them lived on the other end of town. Weekends were the times she usually spent socializing within her groups.
Ian tossed the change into the tip jar, nodding his thanks to Jim for the much-needed coffee.
‘Thanks Ian, next one’s on me” Jim said, wiping his hands on the moderately clean half apron tied around his waist.
Between sips Ian said, “I’ll take you up on that” as he moved away from the counter.
He told himself to move slowly, to not appear as though he were in a hurry, which might scare her off. It was obvious she came to this cafe deliberately, knowing it would be empty.
“Great minds think alike”, he mused to himself.
Ian casually perused the half empty magazine rack to scan what was left, hoping for a Trouser Press, but no such luck. He settled on the torn and dog-eared local music rag, maybe his brother’s band made it in this week, he thought.
Ian decided that sitting on the opposite side, on a worn out love seat a few tables in front of her may make her feel more comfortable, perhaps apt to stay. He had noticed her quickly drinking the contents of her enormous mug in an effort to get ready to leave. He didn’t want that. He could smell the spicy scent of her clove cigarette, a smell which always reminded him of the club where he sometimes worked as a doorman. Ian wasn’t built, but his height and somewhat gothic look usually deterred the troublemakers from trying to get inside. Mostly, Ian liked to quietly observe people and their strange rituals, while listening to the local bands who flocked to DAX on amateur nights.
“Got a light, Miss?’ Ian knew it was a lame start, but he really was out of matches, and the cafe didn’t often carry any because the kids would stuff their pockets with them, then try to sell them off or trade for cigarettes they couldn’t yet buy.
Desia reached for her silver lighter, a gift from her Grandfather. “Sure.” she said, handing it to him without looking up.
‘Wow, nice.” Ian admired the lighter, it looked well loved with a slightly worn, intricate pattern engraved on its front. He ran his thumb over the pattern while gauging its weight in his hand.The lighter was quite old, heavy, and of very high quality. Desia noticed the genuine interest he’d taken with it, but half wondering if he was going to make off with it.
“May I?” Ian said, asking with his eyes as well as his voice.
“Oh...sure” with that she looked up into his face with a half smile. Ian felt like he’d been taken a combat boot to the gut when she finally looked up at him. Her face had been mostly obscured by the long spiky bangs which hung down en masse over one heavily black rimmed eye. And what an eye.
“Beautiful” he said, almost to himself. “Uh...where’d you get it?”
Desia was not one to notice or expect a compliment, on the rare occasion it was directed at her. But if she didn’t know better, she’d have thought he was looking at her, not the lighter.
“Oh, yeah. It was my Grandfather’s. Had it in the war. But he gave it to me when he quit smoking.” Again Desia gave Ian a half smile, but quickly looked down again. This time, Ian noticed she had a dimple in her cheek when she smiled.
“Hm, nice.” he thought, trying to focus on the lighter again. He turned it over in his hand and read the inscription: ‘To My Deevee, My Light, My Heart.”
Ian lit his cigarette, blowing the first puff up into the air, away from her.
“So your name is Deevee?” he asked, offering his open palm to her to take back the lighter. Secretly, he wanted to see if she’d touch his hand while plucking the lighter from it.
“Desia, actually. Only Pops calls me that.” she said with a slight shake of her head. “He’s the only one I let get away with that.” She tucked the lighter back into a small pocket on the inside of her spiked leather jacket, giving it a slight pat as if to reassure herself that it was there, safe.
“That’s pretty cool, your old man enabling your habit.” Ian said with a full grin, “You don’t hear that everyday.” He took a long drag off his cigarette, slowly letting it out. Ahh, I needed that. Ian thought, 'She’s got me a little high'. He tried to remember the last time he felt affected by a woman. It had been a long, long time. Ian was choosy, opting for quality over quantity. But still had his share of fucked up relationships with fucked up chicks.
‘Rite of passage’ he thought to himself. As he got older, he found his tolerance for bullshit and drama moved closer and closer to zero.
And if you've gotten this far, I am mightily impressed. I'll keep at it when the mood takes me, but I haven't a clue where it's going....Happy writing!