And then he approached me and winked at me as if we were old pals and I was supposed to know what that meant.
I looked around hoping there was someone behind me that knows the guy. No luck. The guy was really into me. In a very strange way. I said with half voice: “Dude, what are you doing? You’re creeping me out”.
“Say what? You don’t remember me?”
“Well, no. Should I?”
“I’m the guy who sits across the room from your usual sit at the library.”
“Good for you. And?”
“I thought we had a thing since you kinda look at me sometimes.”
“If I looked at you before is probably because you were starring at me, thing I hate the most, since it’s rude and completely invasive.”
“So, can I take you out for a cup of coffee? Sometime? Anytime?”
“As much as I love coffee I’ll pass. Have no idea who you are and no offense, but you’re a freak”.
“Oh, I’ve been told that before. Don’t worry. I’m a cool guy, you’ll see.”
“It sounds like you’ve done this before. The starring and bothering people and then inviting them out for a coffee. I can’t help but wonder if you took your meds today.”
“Yeah. For your condition I mean. I assume you’re taking something…”
“And what condition is that?”
“Well, how can I say it?! You’re delusional my friend.”
“And you’re a condescending bitch.”
The more he was talking the more he was getting me interested. Not sure what was going on or why I couldn’t pick up my things and leave. He was just standing there in front of me, looking as if he knew me, acting like a familiar friend, trying to convince me into going out. I’ve never done this before, talking with a stranger in that manner. But I felt comfortable in a way, at ease, and very amused in the same time. Before he started talking again I started asking him a lot of questions, not leaving him time to answer, trying to avoid his look. Be retreated after a while, confused, disarmed. I won. I knew I won. He looked so disappointed.
He made me feel sad all of the sudden. I felt like a jerk. I might regret this, I thought but I was amazed by what I was going to say next: “Let’s go grab that cup of coffee.” The look on his face was telling a thousand-page story. I watched him walk away. He was going to leave the building. I followed. He was so quiet. We walked down the street, the air was so cold, a strong and cold wind was blowing from nowhere making me fold my coat around even tighter. I had to take out my gloves. I had no hat and the wind was messing my hair to the point that I was not able to see before me. It was getting annoying. I felt strange walking like this, behind him, not even knowing his name. I shouted: “Hey, you. Slow down. I want to ask you something.”
“Don’t worry about it. Take your time. Just walk for now.”
“WERE ARE WE GOING?”
“You’ll see”. I was curious. I can’t deny it. How dangerous could it be?
What am I doing? I asked myself. I was not afraid, just challenged. I was looking down, at my feet. Never before looked done at that paver street while walking. I was not looking towards him anymore, so I bumped into him. He stopped in front of a store, or a gallery. Not sure what it was. He pushed the door open and we were inside. It was warm, high ceiling room, hard wood floors, big paintings hanged on white walls. There was a table in a corner, by the window, under some stairs. He took my coat and invited me to sit. He disappeared behind a red velvety curtain and reappeared after a few moments with a bottle of wine and two glasses.
“Drink” he commanded. And I drank, a glass, two, three. Then I don’t remember, I lost count.
“Take your time”, he said. “There’s no need to rush. We’ll be here for a while”.
“Who are you? What are you?”
“I’m Peter. This is my parents’s business: a winery and an art gallery in one. This is were I live. This is were I work. I’m 37 years old, only child, just finished my PhD and now I run this business, all of it. I stopped and talk to you because of all the moments I saw you at the library, always sitting in the same quiet place, away from everyone else, always bringing the exact number of books at the table, always coming and leaving at the same hour and always looking so down.”
“For how long have you been studying me? Following me?”
“For over four months now.”
“Aren’t you busy enough working, studying, living your life?”
“You are interesting enough to me. I can always make time for “things” that I’m interested in.”
“Is that what I am to you? A thing?”
“Yes, a sort of thing. But a very dear thing.”
“You have a very lovely face”, I heard myself say out of the blue.
“Now I think you drank too much.”
“It’s time for me to walk you home.”
“I want to stay.”
“And I want to take you home.”
“I like you Peter. I guess you’re not that creepy as I thought.”
“I knew you’d come around. I told you I’m a cool guy.”
“Do you come to the library for me or because that’s what you do: come there, stare at people and then take them out?”
“I love books. That’s all.”
“Are you serious? You don’t strike me as a guy who spends too much time in a library. You look more like a business man.”
“That’s because I am a business man.”
“And what is your business? Your REAL business?”
“Other than what you see around you, which I already mentioned but I don’t think you heard me, is you. You are my business.”
“Oh, no. Not again. Don’t go back to being all enigmatic with me and freak me out.”
“You see, Hannah, we all start as strangers. My goal is to make you walk away as a friend. Now get up, I’ll take you home.”
“Take your time, Peter. There’s no rush. It’s only 3 in the morning. We have all the time in the world to know each other.”
The next morning I woke up with a huge hangover headache and a dry mouth. I had no idea how I ended up home, in bed, all naked under the covers. I needed a coffee. A strong one. All I could think of is that I needed to get to the library, and fast. I got to the library in a heart beat since I’m not living very far. The doors were locked, I looked inside. So quiet. What am I doing?
Today is Sunday……
I felt so desperate. Now what? What am I going to do? When will I see Peter again? All I could hear in my ears was the sound of his voice saying “Take your time….”
It’s raining. I’m all alone in the middle of the sidewalk, looking down at my shoes.