They were certainly the most peculiar group of people I have yet to meet, and I expect them to remain as such indefinitely.
Upon moving to the city, besides the gradually increasing shove and shuffle of the masses, the first thing I noticed was the wall of piss-stench upon exiting the train to the subway platform; secondly was the embarrassing realization that I was standing, like a country-bumpkin fishstick out of the fryer, directly in the way of everyone around me, hindering anyone who needed to get anywhere; thirdly, you have to leap-frog your luggage like an old arcade game through the chaotic foot-streets of the platform until you get to the stairs; and finally, accepting the reality that this grand life change of mine really could have used even the faintest scrap of planning.
The number stuck in my head: “one thousand, two-hundred and thirty three dollars, forty-two cents” repeated every few seconds, unintentionally, yet firmly as a reminder to refrain from indulgence. As I ascended from the twisted, steep-stepped labyrinth of the station stairs, the clammy and humid air of the subway tunnels billowed behind me, steadily. The city’s way of saying “Welcome, fuckface”, I suppose.
And then I was on the street. The amount and traffic of people systematically and methodically weaving, strolling, or barreling through the stampede wasn’t what first shook me: it was how dead they all looked while doing it. Seeing the rat race ran on blistered feet instead of hardworking souls providing for the commonwealth is one of those thoughts you get when you read a lot. But that’s for a pamphlet, not this story.
I knew the first thing that I should do was, obviously, find a place to stay. So, I took about fifteen steps away from the subway stairs into the nearest café, which, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll call “Café Prétentieux”. Ordered a large black coffee from the outrageously cute waitress – oh, barista, that’s what I meant. She was entirely silent while I approached the counter, doodling a little fantasy in a sketch book; which I would later learn to be one of hundreds, all half-filled. A single, teasing tassel of white-dyed hair hung on left side of her toffee face, and with a whistle of wisp from her lips, she blew it, apathetically, further to the side as I approached. The simplest gesture to imply absolute aloofness.
“Hey’a! How’s your day goin’?”, chipper-eyed, and cherry-cheeked, I blurted.
Followed by most embarrassing three-second pause of my life.
“My god,” her words danced: swaying to the accented melody of her – to be frank – knee-buckling sexy, instinct-kindling, and deadly filth of her from-the-vine French accent.
The greatest surge of sexual ferocity and determination I’d felt since third grade science. But that’s for a shrink-session, not this story.
She continued: “You’re absolutely the most adorable thing I have ever seen!” as she carelessly flung her uncapped pen across the backbar of the coffee counter, slapped her palms on the counter top, and leaned in as if a lioness.
And fuck, how I could have died of ridicule in that moment.
But the more she smiled, her nose crinkled, as if holding in a bunny’s sneeze, and she preceded to whisper “Let us make you happy, no?”, then broke away, leaving nothing but a sly and subtle scent, and a feeling I had never felt before.