‘Are you staying in my motel room tonight?’ he asks. ‘I’ve been lonesome the last few days.’
‘You wish,’ I snap. ‘One-night-stands aren’t my thing, honey.’
‘Settle down, my sweet. I leave for good tomorrow and who knows when I’ll be back. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a sly bit of fun. If you won’t come back with me tonight then write down your number on this napkin, would you?’
He hands me a black pen from the pocket of his pants. The end of it is chewed and cracked along the edges – worn and beaten like its owner. I swear it still has some saliva on it, but I do my best to ignore it. ‘Here’s my number, jack off,’ I say with a wink.
He takes it from my hand, making sure his fingers touch my palm.
‘What can I get you?’ the waiter inquires.
‘Espresso for me,’ I order. The waiter nods and turns to him.
‘The largest, strongest white coffee you can make,’ he says. The waiter gives an acknowledged grumble while writing our order down on his notepad.
‘What do you do exactly?’ I ask him.
‘I’m in-between jobs at the moment. And you?’
‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ he continues to question.
‘I wouldn’t call him a boyfriend, no,’ I answer hesitantly.
‘Then I see no problem with you staying in my hotel room.’
‘What about your wife?’ I reply, looking at the cheap, tarnished ring on his left hand, ‘and besides, you don’t know if you love me or if you could love me.’
He seems to find this incredibly amusing. “Love? Who said anything about love!’ he cries. ‘Love disfigures people. It’s the world’s excuse for being ugly.’
‘Why would a man and a woman go to a motel room if it were not for some kind of beginning of love?’
‘Beginnings, middles, ends. Why does there have to be an order to everything? Why don’t we go straight to the middle and head down to my motel room now?’ he asks with a smirk on his face.
‘Why don’t we go straight to the end and I walk out of this café?’ I respond while gathering my things to go. Just as I stand to leave, the waiter arrives at our table carrying coffees.
‘Very funny,’ he says. ‘At least stay for your coffee and do try to behave yourself.’ Reluctantly, I sit down again. I may as well get a free coffee from this meeting, seeing as I want nothing else from him.
I stir the sugar into my espresso and raise my eyes in time to watch him pour one, two, three … I lose count after he dumps six sugars in his oversized American coffee. For a moment I am glad he takes so much sugar – sooner he gets some ill-fated disease. My train of thought is distracted by his dramatic sigh after he takes the first sip from his coffee.
‘Not sweet enough?’ I ask.
‘It’s cold!’ he cries, then like a child throwing a tantrum, he calls the waiter over and insists on another being made. ‘This time served hot!’
If this is how he behaves, then I’m beginning to be glad he’s leaving for good tomorrow.
‘Honestly,’ he says loud enough for the whole café to hear, ‘America, land of the free! Freedom to get a cold coffee!’
The next coffee is placed in front of him. He turns to me and says, ‘Now, where were we?’
I take advantage of such a clichéd question and reply, ‘You were about to put six sugars in your hot coffee and drink it before it goes cold.’
‘Ah, yes, thank you, my sweet.’
As he is counting out his sugars, I suggest ‘Better put in one or two sugars more. It helps keep the coffee hotter for longer. Sugar retains heat, don’t you know?’
‘That I did not know,’ he replies, ‘now I’ve got something out of our meeting. Not going back to my motel room entirely deflated.’
I take the last sip of my coffee, stand up and put on my jacket. ‘I have to catch the train now.’
‘I’ll drive you to the subway,’ he says. ‘Pretty young girls shouldn’t be walking around this town alone. You never know what old creep is lurking about.’
I could hardly deny this man with the receding hairline and beige cardigan from driving me to the subway, after he just paid for my coffee.
‘Next time, your shout,’ he jokes. ‘Now I can’t pay my mortgage.’
I smile and think to myself, Keep your wife, your mortgage, your coffee – there ain’t gonna be a next time, buddy.
We fly down the road so fast. It’s like a getaway in a stolen car; in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were a stolen car. The city’s lights guide us to a park outside the subway underground and I know he’ll give it one last crack.
‘You sure you want to go home?’ he pleads. He continues to tell me where his motel room is, that it’s cheap, but the bed is big enough for two.
I interrupt. ‘I’m expected home on this train.’ When I turn and walk toward the subway I am relieved to see my train waiting on the platform. It stands there at the platform, doors open, a welcome escape.
When I finally reach home, I walk along the dusty path, weaving through the trailers in the park until I reach my own. I rummage around the bottom of my bag to find the key. Turning the key in the lock I open the door of the trailer. Two steps up and I’m in the trailer that now seems even colder since Travis broke the window this morning. Dishes from breakfast are still in the sink and I know Travis hasn’t returned home yet. Seeing as he has no job to go to, I’m sure he’s with another woman again. I walk over to the sink. I find my tarnished wedding ring beside the washing detergent and put it on again.
Bianca Poitevin was born in Melbourne. Currently she is studying in the areas of Literary Studies and Professional and Creative Writing at Deakin University, and as a singer/songwriter she has travelled throughout Europe, Scandinavia and Asia.