She chose the place. I was anxious to see what that place said about her? I followed the crowd inside, all of us hurrying in, and out of a steady October rain. I paused just inside the doorway, disappointed to find the cafe trendy, and very busy. Periodic laughter arose from fern draped booths as young business people on lunch breaks vied for the attention of pretty co-workers, or new bosses. The hum of wordless voices dulled the persistent tinkling of silverware on china, while gentle currents pushed downward by overhead fans circulated the rich aromas of perfectly prepared foods. Aproned servers rushed past me with patchworks of culinary art in the balance. There were spaces at the bar, so I sat and ordered a coffee from an unsmiling, pony-tailed and unisexed attendant. I glanced at my phone. It was not my kind of place, but I would have met her at a dentist’s office if she’d asked me too... and I was five minutes early. Perfect! I looked towards the door, my heart’s queue to begin a slow, agonizing beat as it impatiently waited.
I had first noticed her at the coffee shop this morning, or rather I had noticed that she was noticing me at the coffee shop this morning. She looked out of place here, like she belonged in a Starbuck’s, or some place even fancier, buying some coffee with a fancy name, double vanilla latte grande, or something like that. And she was certainly not the type of woman who usually paid me any mind, not that the ones who did weren’t pretty, but this one was striking, with long auburn hair, green eyes, and firmly sculpted legs which protruded seemingly forever from beneath a fashionable skirt that some highly paid designer had consciously tailored just to show off their like... and that designer deserved every penny made, in my humble opinion. When our eyes met, she had smiled.
Swimming was the last thing on my morning agenda, but that’s where I found myself as that smile lifted me from the constraints of gravity and swam me upwards through the air, high above those other blue collars seated so heavily in the shop’s metal backed chairs, or padded booths. Suddenly unnaturally shy, my eyes left hers to concentrate on the coffee steaming up from my cup and onto my glasses.
Sensing a presence I assumed to be hers I looked up, but could see nothing through my fogged lenses, “I’m Candice,“ a friendly voice stated, “I saw you from over there, and I liked your smile. I have to be at work, but if you can, I would love it if you could meet me at noon, for lunch?” My tangled tongue said nothing. The click of her heels pulled at my heart as they passed away. Through the lifting fog on my glasses appeared a napkin lying on the table; “Cecil’s” the print on the napkin stated, “3rd and Main, Louisville, Ky.”
The barstool was uncomfortable, the brass foot-rest too far from my feet. I checked my watch again. It was a quarter after twelve. I had been stood up. Disappointed, but not surprised, I laid a five-spot on the counter for my coffee and shuffled my way to the door. A misting rain still undulated on the breeze as I crossed at the Third Street intersection. Looking up, I did a double-take as I passed an overhead sign; antique, and weather worn. “Cecil’s” it said. I pulled the wrinkled napkin from my pocket. “Cecil’s,” it said. I turned, recrossed the street, and looked at the window of the cafe I had just left.
I ran back across the road, and raced inside. Cecil’s was a genuine 1950’s hamburger joint, warm, and smelling like heaven. A genuine Wurlitzer blasted country-blues from the corner while a waitress carried Coke’s with straws served in frosted green, glass bottles.
I described my date to the freckled, teenaged waitress. “Yea, she was here... didn’t order anything. Drank her Coke and left... she looked really sad. Great tipper though!”
I wadded up the napkin, and pushed it through the little swinging door on the stainless steel trash can, the napkin ending it’s life cycle right back in the same cafe where it belonged. The rusted spring on the old fashioned, screen entry door screeched as I pushed myself through on my way out, and back into the cold rain where I belonged. I looked up at the sign once more before stepping into the downpour.
“It was Cecil’s, you moron, not Cecilia’s.” With that, I lowered my miserable head and stepped into the miserable rain.