A definition listed for strange is “unusual or surprising; difficult to understand or explain”. I had to admit that it fitted the peculiar man who visited me every day at the Café very well. Like clockwork, at precisely 9 a.m., 15 minutes after I had arrived and grabbed my coffee, settled down, and fired my laptop up, he would appear, in whatever weird, unconventional, outfit he happened to be wearing that day, scan the small collection of customers, find my face, and proceed to grin like a maniac before practically skipping over to my table and taking the seat opposite me. He didn’t seem to care very much that I never said a word to him, or that I just stared at him incredulously with wide eyes every time he showed up. He also didn’t seem to care that the only time I had ever said anything to him was when I firmly told him to stop stalking me, to which he just laughed, and replied with, “Mi vida, it’s only stalking if it’s unwanted and obsessive attention. I am fully aware that my attention is not unwanted, although it may be obsessive on my part, so I apologise.”
The only way I could answer that was with a look of complete shock and an open mouth. I’m certain I stared at him like that for a good few minutes.
However, he still showed up the next day, and the day after that, so I came to the conclusion that he can’t have been that sorry.
On one particular day though, he was late.
It was a Friday, pouring with rain, though you can’t expect much more from England in January. I had taken up my window seat, coffee in hand, umbrella propped against the wall to dry, and with a book instead of a laptop this time, something I did very rarely, but had done so on this particular day. I resumed my page. And I read. A while passed.
It wasn’t until I heard the familiar voice of Mrs. Arthurs, an old lady whose pastimes included loudly complaining about her husband and discussing the state of the world to anyone who would listen, that I halted in my reading and frowned. Putting the book down, I checked my watch. 9:11 a.m. My frown deepened. He was late. I knew this because Mrs. Arthurs always entered The Stag Café at the exact same time, much like I did. She arrived at 9:10. So it could only mean that my usual coffee partner was late.
Where was he?
It was puzzling, to be honest. He had never been late before, not in the 4 or so months I’d known him. I was, however, even more puzzled by the fact that I was missing his company, and was concerned as to where he was, which I definitely considered odd, since I usually wished, when he was around, that he would leave me alone. But now, I found myself missing his eccentric behaviour, his bizarre way of dressing, and questionable sense of humour.
Eventually, after several minutes of internal debate, I decided to wait a little longer to see if he would appear, and then head out to see if I could spot him. The latter decision was an arguably stupid thing to do, mind you, since I had no idea where he lived, where he could be found before our coffee mornings, or where he could be found after. Basically, I was running off of the assumption that he had nothing better to do with his life than hang around town and meet me for coffee every day.
“Which is definitely an egotistical thing to think,” I murmured, staring down into the half empty, lukewarm latte that had been sitting on the table for the past ten minutes in a completely rejected state while I reconsidered my life choices that revolved around the brightly dressed male. I couldn’t help but crack a smile.
“Brightly dressed is a bit of an understatement - you can see him from a mile away.”
My smile grew as I fondly remembered the time he’d walked through the doors wearing a vivid, lime green dress shirt with an electric violet waistcoat, dark grey trousers and lime green Doc Martins that match his shirt to the exact shade.
“That was one hell of an outfit. Almost as bad as the time he wore a lemon yellow sweatshirt with insanely bright cyan jeans.”
He’d swore that he only wore it to brighten the place up, since the dull weather had apparently “sucked all of the colour from the streets and replaced it with varying shades of boring”. He’d then suggested that I wear something yellow, as it would suit me very well. I had only frowned in reply.
“No way in this lifetime you’ll get me yellow,” I muttered.
It was at this moment that I realised I was talking to a coffee cup, and promptly shut my mouth before someone around me could question my level of sanity.
If they haven’t already started.
Sighing, I ran a hand through my hair, and glanced at my watch. 9:22 a.m. I was starting to become antsy. The visits were really the only interesting thing that happened to me on a daily basis, so the fact that he hadn’t shown up - although I was convinced that he was late because of some reason other than he had gotten bored of me - genuinely upset me, since the rest of the day was bound to be uneventful. Tapping my foot, I scanned the Café, before realising that I knew this place like I knew my way around the Bookshop: far too well. There was nothing of remote interest in the Café, because I already knew where everything was. The only thing that had even slightly changed was the circular mahogany table in the middle of the left hand side of the room, which had moved approximately 2 inches to the right.
I breathed heavily out of my nose and leant back in my chair, staring blankly at my coffee cup. I still hadn’t finished it, and didn’t really want it, so it continued to sit there dejectedly. Barely seconds passed, and I shifted my position so I was sitting up, my chin resting in my palm, and the fingers of my other hand drumming on the table.
A minute passed.
“Right, that’s it,” I mumbled.
Quickly shooting out of my seat, I shoved my book into my inside coat pocket, snatched my umbrella from its resting position, and was ready to bolt when I realised that I’d knocked my coffee over, and also my chair. It took a moment to register. When it did, I apologised profusely to the worker who had begun clearing the spillage, and I picked up the chair, returning it to its original position.
She just smiled and said, “Not a problem. You late for something?”
“No, no, I... someone was supposed to meet me,” I replied, starting to leave as I said so.
However, before I could get away, she laughed and commented, “Ah, that dude who’s always meeting you in here. Seems like a nice guy. A bit strange, but nice.”
I didn’t quite know how to reply to that. Yes, that was also what I thought, but it was odd hearing it from someone else. Maybe it was because I’d never seen him interact with anyone else that I found it unfamiliar for others to talk of him. It had always seemed like only I could see him. Well, except those times when he laughed loud enough to draw the attention of the whole Café. So I nodded, said goodbye, and headed out into the pouring sheets of English rain.
Moving away from the door and opening up my umbrella, I looked left and right, and then left and right again.
“If I was a strange, loud, brightly dressed human being, where would I go?”
This earned me a funny look from a passing man and (presumably) his two children, but I paid it no mind. I huffed. I shoved my free hand in my pocket. I looked left and right another four times. And I huffed again.
Then I spent the next two hours wandering around town. The rain let up for about half an hour before returning, and, even with an umbrella, I was suitably drenched. Although, due to the rain, the streets were quite empty, and offered me some solitude and alone time with my thoughts. The smells of freshly baked bread and cake wafted around the streets from the Cafés, as the surge of people entering them required the bakers to make more than their fair share, and the strong scent of coffee soon joined the party. Reds and purples and blues and greens all faded to greys and blacks and whites as the overcast sky shifted everything into shades of boring. Chills passed through me occasionally as the wind picked up before settling down again. I tugged my coat closer to my body and cursed myself for not bringing a scarf or gloves of even a hat. It was typical of me really - to do something so stupid. In fact, I was currently one hundred percent certain that my book was ruined as well, since my coat was soaked through, so I made a mental note to look for it in the bookshop later.
Rounding the corner, I began debating whether I should give up and go home or not, with the former option being very displeasing, when I saw him. I stopped, squinting through the thin sheets of water falling from the sky. He was standing still, in the middle of the empty street, simply standing there, face turned towards the sky, eyes closed, and a soft smile gracing his face. That is most certainly out of character. Before I could consider that it was not in fact him, I noticed his clothing. No coat. No sweatshirt, or hoodie. He was wearing a candy apple red dress shirt, sleeves meticulously rolled up to just below the elbow, and olive green skinny jeans, complete with his lime green Doc Martins.
It was definitely him. My lips twitched. No one else would wear anything like that.
I took my umbrella down. The chill of the rain made me shiver, but I didn’t want anything to give me away. Quietly, I walked towards him, so as not to alert him to my presence. I managed to make it right next to him, beside him, and he continued to stand there. It was then that I became aware of the fact that I had never been this close to him before; he had always sat on the opposite side of the table, maybe leaning in every now and then, but never within a couple of inches. I was so close I could hear his breathing. So close I could feel it. My eyes scanned his face. The raindrops ran over his sharp cheeks, over his forehead, over the bridge of his nose. I found myself holding my breath. His hair, usually reddish blond, was a darker brown, courtesy of the rain, with a red sheen, and laid flat against his head, almost touching his shoulders, his fringe very close to sweeping into his eyes.
I waited a few beats.
“Aren’t you enjoying this English rain a bit too much?”
To my utter amazement, he actually jumped, a startled expression adorning his face as his eyes darted up and down my form. It only took a split second for his usual manic grin to return, his eyes sparkling and creasing at the corners, those stray wet hairs from his fringe falling across his face.
It was then my turn to be surprised when he swiftly pulled me into a warm hug.
“I went to the Café and you were not there, I mean I know I was late, I’m very sorry, mi sol, I didn’t mean to be, I had to finish some work late last night, I know it’s not an excuse, and I apologise profusely-“
“Hey,” I cut him off, pulling away so I could look at him properly, “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
I had a feeling he was not at all fond of the idea of me not hugging him, so his arms continued to rest around my sides as he grinned. Somehow, and I blame him entirely, a crooked smile fixed itself on my face.
There was a comfortable silence for a few minutes. Now that I had the opportunity to take a closer look at him, I noticed his eyes. They were framed by his eyelashes, but his eyelashes weren’t particularly long - average, maybe - and his eyebrows, which had a small arch in them, and appeared to have been plucked at some point in the past. They were not framed by hair, as his hair swept to the right, but currently, a few stray collections of strands were attempting to make their way into his eyes. They creased at the corners when he grinned. They were brown. No… no, that description did not do them justice. They were a warm, gingerbread brown, and they looked ready to melt with unbridled emotion. They were many other shades too, the longer I gazed, and I perceived amber and gold and caramel too. They were the sort that probably sparkled in the sunlight, but, in my opinion, they shone enough themselves, even in the rain.
I blinked. Lost at the sudden word, I uttered a noise of confusion.
He laughed. “My name, dulzura. It’s Cashmere. Or Mer, if you so prefer it. It occurred to me that we have never been properly introduced despite our friendship.” He titled his head to the side, his crazy grin still present, “How peculiar, don’t you think, poppet?”
Agreeing, I told him my name.
Cashmere’s eyes shone as he said it back, before cheerfully adding “beautiful, poppet, absolutely beautiful! Suits you very well, almost as well as my nicknames, not quite, but close.”
It was my turn to laugh and adopt a similar maniacal grin. I swore he was rubbing off on me, and presently I did not know how to take it.
Mer returned his attention to the sky, which had ever so kindly been pouring buckets of water over us as we spoke, not showing any signs of stopping soon, and was in the process of making sure that the both of us caught a nasty cold.
“How about lunch, rehlein?” He asked, eyes still fixed on the sky, “It will get us out of this wonderful weather and give us a chance to dry off, and besides, as usual, I don’t suppose you ate anything this morning.”
“…How do you know that?”
Laughing joyfully, he removed his arms from waist (which, admittedly, I had forgotten were still there) and took my hand, leading me forward.
“Your eyes always wander to the cake displays in the Café, and I have caught your stomach rumbling multiple times during our morning’s together, mi cielito.”
Cashmere gazed at me affectionately, as he blissfully continued, “Strangely, though, you never have one.”
A definition listed for strange is “unusual or surprising; difficult to understand or explain”. However, many forget that a word can be easily viewed positively instead of negatively, and that words have synonyms. Extraordinary, fantastic, wonderful. These are synonyms of strange. And, while I have grown quite fond of the word ‘strange’, I feel that these three describe my boyfriend much better than ‘strange’ could ever hope to.