Earlier today, I was sitting at Barnes & Noble, celebrating my three-day abstinence from coffee with a coffee, the purchase of a new book Chariots of the Gods, and a settling in to seriously adjust one of my short stories for submission when irony presented itself. You see, when I write in public, I enjoy looking at people not talking to them. But it’s people that I enjoy. I rip snippets of conversation and tuck them away for later artistic use; I ogle beautiful women and pretend that I’m a super intellect who types really fast; I relish being present for awkward first dates; I thrive in the gushing accommodation I hear in public job interviews: “Judy? Hi, I’m Over-Dressed-And-Nervous-And-Not-Going-To-Get-The-Job. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” “Hello, Over-Dressed-And-Nervous-And-Not-Going-To-Get-The-Job. I’m sorry I’m so late! Traffic was backed up all the way to the office, and I had to make an emergency stop at a Diamond Shamrock before I shit my pantsuit.” “Oh, it’s no trouble, Judy. It’s only been 45 minutes. May I buy you a coffee?” “Yes.” I judge, but I’m never engaged. I’ve been told I have an unapproachable exterior. It’s the eyebrows I think. But, morons and degenerates don’t seem to mind, and they lovingly gravitate toward me as though I’m Mother-fuckin’ Theresa. I can spot ‘em a mile away too. It’s awful. Anyway, a mentally unsound degenerate approached me today.
The café at B&N was spilling with people, but when I arrived, there were two tables pushed together along a long bench seat lining the wall. I cleaned one off, and pushed the other a respectful distance from mine, so someone else could use it. I had just snugged in a pair of earbuds to drown the deafening chatter when a mismatched sociological study materialized across the café, spied the empty table and then my holiness. He squeezed beside me and immediately started commenting on how he was surprised my computer wasn’t a Mac as all people from the University of Texas have MacBooks (I have no and have never had any affiliation or signifiers to indicate an affiliation to UT (Unless you count an ex-girlfriend who actually shat burnt orange feces, the school’s most recognizable gang color)). He asked me to watch his stuff and stood again to collect the cheesecake and coffee he had ordered. His ass bumped my table upon his return, spilling my coffee and pissing me off. In his defense, he said “Sorry, sorry, sorry” right away, and I actually felt a little guilty for assigning him to social incompetence solely based on his appearance. He was a little younger than me, pale and lanky, disheveled and dandruff sprinkled hair and facial hair, coke-bottle glasses with smudged and dirty lenses, and a fisherman’s jacket. A fisherman’s jacket, folks. Was I wrong to immediately wish he would not sit next to me? He settled into his region of our bench and picked up his fork. “What are you doing?” he asked, peering at my computer screen.” I heard him fine, but I popped my earbuds out to emphasize the inconvenience and told him I was trying to log onto a network. “You can’t do it?” he asked. “Still trying,” I told him as I screwed the sound-dampening devices back into my ears. He gawked at my laptop a moment longer and started gobbling his delicious-looking cheesecake. A minute later, his plate was empty, and my peripheral vision detected his attention again. I ignored him but stiffened when his hand hesitantly reached out, and I felt his long thumbnail press my elbow. “Can you watch my stuff?” he asked over the calming sound of Iron & Wine’s “The Trapeze Swinger.” I uncorked my ears, and he repeated his request. His cheesecake had liquefied in his mouth and frothy strands of pink and white saliva connected his upper and lower lips like stalagmites that made it. “I won’t be here very long,” I told him, unwilling to be responsible for whatever gamer magazines he had within his store bag. “Well I know that,” he said with a laugh that stressed his wet cheesecake into gossamer strands. “Just watch my stuff.” I deflated a little but committed. He collected his fork and plate, returned it to the ordering counter, five feet away, and sat down again. When two tables by an electrical outlet cleared simultaneously, I gathered my stuff and relocated in order to recharge my computer battery. We were adjacent to each other now, and I could still see him out of the corner of my eye, staring. “Oh come on,” he called across the café. “You know you like this seat. You just moved.” His insight was as startling as the distance his voice had carried, so I pretended not to hear him. He waited for acknowledgment then grabbed his gamer mags and mumbled to the table directly behind me.
Is that not the nature of harassment? The man made me move to another table then followed. I didn’t need to charge my computer. And why me? Outwardly, I’m not a friendly-looking person. Out of some psychological deficiency, I have a perpetually macho scowl on my face. I speak loudly and with crisp depth. My personal bubble extends farther than the average asshole. I’m crotchety for God’s sake. But the crazies don’t seem to recognize that and insist on touching me or standing too close to me or following me down grocery store aisles.