A coffee shop, Central Square, Cambridge, MA:
There’s an old man sitting at seven o’clock who is drawing me. He gets up every fifteen minutes, takes his backpack with him, leaves his sketch pad and his pencils, and goes outside to smoke a cigarette. The first time he left he flipped over the page to hide his drawing, but not the third time.
He looks homeless. His face a forest of unkempt gray bristles. An over-large amorphous jacket dwarfs him, and shapeless stains in shades of brown kiss his equally shapeless maroon knit hat. When I look at him, he stops drawing for a second.
They’ve left now (together, though they arrived alone on either side of a 40-minute precipice), but I’m pretty sure I witnessed the first in-person meeting of an internet liaison. What would you do if he had an infuriatingly high-pitched laugh (think the Judge from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)? Maybe she didn’t mind.
--You are the most patient person in the world, he said. Let’s just pretend we were supposed to meet at noon and I’m twenty minutes early.
I probably wouldn’t have laughed, but I would have smiled.
What was striking about this particular eavesdropping session (besides the fact that it was overlaid on my reading of Book IX of Milton’s Paradise Lost, the infamous chapter wherein Satan tricks Eve into tasting the forbidden fruit, she takes it back to Adam, they fashion woodland clothes for themselves and “…in mutual accusation spent/ The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning./ And of their vain conquest appeared no end,” (Lines 1187-1189)) is how one-sided the conversation seemed. I now know more than I would ever want to know about high-pitched-laugh-man. He spent his summers at a computer camp (where he became an expert in Logo…remember that? With the turtle that could draw the most fascinating rectangles on your screen…), has his first international adventure in Japan, where he chased Japanese men from pool to pool at a hot spring, travels about 35 times a year (that’s about every-other-week, he told her), and could very easily devolve into a Days of Our Lives watching pile of mush if he finds his sugar-momma. Fascinating? Not really…
On my way to Central Square today a man stopped me in front of the MacDonald’s and asked me if I knew what happened to the Burger King that used to be here. It closed and turned into a trendy-looking restaurant/bar called Rendezvous (though all the fancy-off-white-curtains and professional graphic design in the world couldn’t hide its former identity). And no, I didn’t know if there was another Burger Kind nearby, but I stupidly told him “Well there’s a MacDonald’s right here.” Apparently that’s not the same at all. It was funny, and that brief encounter definitely made my day.