Sunday, May 30, 2010


She has a straight-razor tattooed on her forearm, the first thing you notice when she dismounts the bike, despite her sweating, heaving form that would collapse had she not just undone the courier bag strapped around her. A regular at the café, she signals for her regular café only to glare with shark's eyes at the embryo of a barista who at first uncomprehendingly but now with more substantial intimidation buckling his knees, stares helplessly back. Stares at the straight razor tattoo.
The razor itself is open and obtuse, a small but visible rose carved into the handle. Sweat drips and canalizes from the slightest of furrows down its blade as she wipes a sticky black lock from her forehead.
The barista consults with more senior staff who roll their eyes at him and his little squeaks about the bike being in the store, about a patron dampening the upholstery with a certain unhygienic magnitude. Subtlety, while not his strong suit or a factor in the volume of his voice, fails to distract her from the contents of her side-pocket, an obscure tome, there mere cover of which gives less a poverty of fancy so much as a bittersweet richness of fact. It bleeds post-it notes, and she prepares another pad, ripping each into smaller segments arranged along the fingers of the hand that does not turn the book. Unnoticed, she's already laid out exact change on the table, no tip. China rattles as the midnight-black Java is put down beside her, with certain apologies muttered by a barista as inaudibly as his pride would want.
Look at her, rail-thin with exertion, ponytail out of the mess of the rest, a ring around her eyebrow that clinks whenever she pushes up her glasses. Neat nails trimmed to their beds by idle picking, that is by tooth or claw. She rubs her shark's eyes in the pre-caffeine haze, again flashing an ebony straight-razor. Her lips, the type that pour out of a jutting lower jaw, mutter the silent litany of text, pausing only to be flicked at by a page-herding thumb. Half-lidded eyes are wholly on the text, and the rest of her works at an automatic pace.
Stare, be entranced, lick your lips with the sudden burst as she sweats over you from equally occupying tasks, anxious as much for exertion as to keep pace and delay the inevitable. Her head thrown back, her shoulders shuddering. Her stirring in the morning in a bathrobe, her fingers tracing frost in a winter's pane. Her growing old to your left, as you grow old to her right, side by side on a patio nowhere in particular. Nobody else looks that way, nobody ever will. There is a fond little moment, a synchrony, your uniqueness, her uniqueness, coming together in a crescendo of thought and would-be memories. A little ball of yarn for you to bat around your belfry as your feet too work at an automatic pace to bring you home again smelling of coffee.
Years later, you cut yourself shaving, the thin dribble of blood demanding attention and treatment. But you're useless for at least a few moments, cut apart by a straight-razor girl in a café.

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