BY NORM ROSOLEN
Copyright is held by the author.
IN THE early 70s, I got caught up in a melodrama in an upscale Toronto cafe where my wife and I were having morning coffee. She talked and I pretended to listen. But I was actually listening to a conversation between two men at an adjacent table.
One was in his 40s, conservatively well dressed. You wouldn’t turn an eye to look at him if he walked by. But he was animated, and that caught my attention.
“Why did you do it?” he said to his younger colleague. He looked stern.
“You didn’t seem to mind.” The younger man sported an insolent smile, clearly in charge. He was in his mid 20s and comfortably well dressed. But he stood out, so good looking, almost pretty like a young Warren Beatty. Even straight guys would’ve noticed him.
“You left me two months ago. Where the hell were you? Why didn’t you call?”
The younger guy shrugged.
The older fellow wagged a finger at his companion. “I never wanted to see you again.”
“Really?” The 20-something leaned back and locked his fingers behind his head.
The older man’s voice rose a notch. I looked around to see if anybody else was eavesdropping. No one was but me, it seemed. My wife continued to talk, oblivious to the drama. Strange.
“Yes. Really. You’re a slut. You know that?” The older man jabbed his index finger at the air repeatedly.
“And a bully and a, a . . .”
“A great lover.”
“No. A crappy lover. And you overwhelmed me. I opened the door and told you to get lost. You pushed right in. Not even a hello.” He ran his fingers through his thinning brown hair, down the back of his neck.
“You didn’t like it?”
“Fuck off. I told you to leave me alone and you, you . . .”
“Took advantage of you?”
“Well, yes. You’re younger. You work out. You’ve got a great body. I mean, I mean you’re too strong. I couldn’t stop you. You raped me. I could report you, you know. I think you’d go to jail.”
“But you didn’t. What you did was make me a nice breakfast. So how am I supposed to take that?”
“I didn’t talk to you this morning — not a word.”
“You moaned and groaned enough last night.”
“Fuck off. I hate you.”
“Well, you did say we should go out for a coffee and a talk. So what is it you need to talk about?”
“I want you back.” The older lover blurted out his request, his hope, his longing. A moment of silence. The 40-something man slumped, took off his brown plastic eyeglasses and rubbed his sleeve across his eyes.
“I’ll think about it.”
I froze, fearing what his partner’s response would be. My wife put her hand on mine. “Ron, Ron. Is something wrong? You’re not drinking your coffee.”
“It’s nothing sweetheart. The coffee’s fine. I’m listening. Go on.” I didn’t say who I was listening to, and she remained unaware of my digression. But a sweet sadness had taken over, and I listened to her fitfully.
A waitress went to our neighbour’s table and the older man paid. As they walked out the younger one leaned close to his friend and said something. The older fellow laughed, and a broad smile followed. I felt relieved.