Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Death of Virtue: Part III

It all just hurt too much.

Crouched over the scattered coins, he didn’t really think anything of it. She looked upset. Her head was down, and he swore there were tears welling in her eyes. Plus she was nearly running, fiddling with her scarf on her way out. He wondered what made her so sad. As his thoughts burnt off into the atmosphere, he methodically picked up each and every nickel, dime, and penny. Still hunkered down, he counted them out in his gloved hand. Satisfied, with a smirk on his face, he rose and approached the bar.

“Afternoon, Jamie” His voice scraped out of his throat. The brogue came and went, as he spent longer and longer in the States, his Celtic accent faded.

“Hi Dan!” The teenage barista perked up as the patterned scarf, brown cap, and dark pea-coat-clad man greeted her.” She reached out her artificially tanned hand and took the exact change Dan handed her. “It must be real cold out there huh?”

“Aye, darlin’. It’s chilly. Rain’s coming down on-and-off, too.”

“So, is it pretty normal for guys to wear scarves like that when it’s cold out back where you’re from? Cause not so many guys can, you know, pull stuff like that off here”

Daniel smirked at the girl. ‘She’s a sweet girl. She really is.’ “Yeah, girl. It’s pretty normal.” His smile grew at he tried to keep his composure while answering the barista.

“Oh, that’s pretty cool, I guess.” She remarked as she capped the lid onto the steaming, clammy wax-covered paper cup, “Here you go Dan! Your medium London Fog. Have a great day, even in this bad weather!” She looked him in the eyes as she handed him the drink, and forced a smile that seemed just a bit too big to be authentic.

He took the cup from the counter, tipped it at her with a wink, and uttered a low thankye. Cramming his hand back into the stuffy leather gloves, he chuckled in his head ‘Yeah, sweet girl.’ He gripped his scarf, now well aware of its presence thanks to the test of masculinity delivered by an adolescent. Heading towards the door, a black object caught the corner of his eye.

The bag’s dark complexion completely contrasted the corporate attempt at chic of the suede dark-red couch. His thoughts flashed to the hurried and flustered woman who had slammed into him. ‘Oy… This is just what that poor soul needs’, he mused to himself approaching the handbag. He placed it on the wooden table, and opened the magnetic clasp.

“Do guys carry around purses over there too?” Jaime was wiping down the tables behind him. Smiling in self-confidence, satisfied with her unique, and bizarre flirtation. At first her voice startled him, and a chill of adrenaline surged like a wave up, down, and around his body. He was expecting a righteous customer to chastise his well-intentioned act. Jaime’s joking was welcome, even if it was another jab at his masculinity.

“Ah… No. Not quite.” He cleared his throat, realizing he had just been flustered by a coffeeshop employed teenager,  “I think it’s you Americans who came up with this whole ‘man-purse’ ordeal, eh?” He mustered up a bit of charm, glanced from the side of his dark green irises, and shot the look towards Jaime. It worked, she blushed a bit, put her head down towards the table she was scrubbing, and scuffled back to the coffee bar. He turned back to his own table. There was a small sketchpad, a black leather-bound journal, and a ringed contact book. Daniel carefully took out the contact list. He foolishly rifled through some of the pages, looking for something but thinking about how futile this act actually was. The crisp, remarkably well-kept papers ended, and just when Daniel was about to close the book and place it back in the bag, he read the first name on the last page.

James Virtue. Ap # 42…

He stopped reading, as his brain came to a screeching halt. Nearly all involuntary actions became present in his consciousness. His heartbeat was massive, echoing throughout his body. Breathing just plain hurt. It was too slow, and his lungs seemed trapped inside his ribs, inside his chest, inside his jacket. He was unbelievably uncomfortable. ‘Well’ He looked up at the ceiling in a symbolic gesture ‘You do work in mysterious ways, eh?’

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