When he returned from his unbeknownst voyage across the multiplex of holiday enthusiasts and pessimistic teenagers who were less than thrilled to leave their unarguably serious partners for the entire span of three and a half weeks, a seeming millennium to the average relationship of two months, he had an empty coffee cup in his hand. With a mischievous little smirk, he whispered something in my direction about the cashiers unwillingness to give him the cup, waving it like a token of some fantastical mission in his right hand, while reaching down for something in his bag with his left.
“Thanks,” Jake gestured to his luggage, which I had watched for the unnerving span of five minutes and thirty-two seconds while he wandered the distance to some unannounced location, on some secretive mission. I nodded, balancing my laptop over my crossed legs like an amateur acrobat. He pulled a small, round tin from the front pocket of his ruck and peeled at the paper casing while he continued to chat about a riveting email conversation with the college’s librarian, to whom he had he pitched the purchasing of a scandalous short story collection and won. It would be on reserve and waiting for him when he got back from break.
Fucked, that’s what he called it. It was supposed to be really fucked up. Insert various literary-correct diction and critique of the pieces, but the only thing he openly criticized was the names that the writer dubbed each of his characters. “They take me out of the fictive dream,” he shrugged, finally prying open the tin. Tobacco, I assumed, it smelled appropriately reminiscent of ass. Setting the cup at the seat behind him, he dug his index finger into the sludge and fished out a generous amount.
Haphazardly popping the sick lump into his cheek, he pulled a book from his bag and settled back into his seat. The cover was familiar, something that I had been recommended to read back in an intro creative writing seminar. The professor must have been on a tight line between labeling me as a fucked up, troubled student with a lot to vent, or a literary genius, because the book was far from any plaintiff definition of normality. Just like me.
“I’ve read that,” I pointed to the flimsy copy that had obviously been taken from the library and would be long overdue by the time it was finally returned after break.
Jake continued to whisper, even if conversation had been directed away from his more or less questionable airport behaviors, although nowhere near comparable to the sketchiness of a misplaced duffle or a stereotyped rugged man with a well grown out beard. He must have felt like a complete thug, because I could hardly hear anything he had to say, even if we had crossed into my familiar academia-related chit chat.
Eventually, we each sunk back into our own individual activities and talk tapered off. I watched, though, as he fumbled through the pages of what he called “fucked” while spitting out the chewed, now liquified with spit, clumps of tobacco. Nasty habit, kind of disgusting. Periodically he looked over to see if I had flinched, and asked what I was working on. “Just writing,” turned into my generic response, since I had a guilty tendency to write out conversations and encounters that passed as interesting enough, and he was being turned into one.
“Just writing,” I peered up for a couple seconds to assume him, before resorting my eyes back to the screen. His glance lingered on, thirsty for something to talk about. “I hate airports,” I continued, “actually, I hate people. So I hate airports.”
“Oh, hell. Tell me about it. It’s completely crowded over there.” He leaned back into his seat nodding so eager, it was desperate.
Blurb from Winter 2014, a “subtle” criticism of flamboyant word choice.