He had his hand against his cheek, and his eyes looked tired—even with the candlelight in them.
“So,” she began, and he held up his hand.
He had this odd, multi-band ring.
“No, none of that. Be more open, would you?”
“I’m…sorry,” she said, already debating getting up out of her chair.
“You’re being so closed off at this one.”
“This one?” she said, and nearly left her chair.
“I assume you’ve been more open before. It’s not important, Cynthia.”
“What is up with you? I can see why you’re at one of these things.”
The man glanced around at the other conversations, at the other people trying to enjoy the awkward five minutes allotted to somehow meet someone else. To know someone else. To make a connection—to find some iota of love.
“I think you’re being cruel to people trying to be happy,” the man said.
“Fuck you—!” Cynthia rose from her seat.
“He’ll be at the next one.”
Cynthia froze. Something in his voice caught her there.
She mumbled: “What?”
She looked at the man. He had this mischievous smile.
“Oh, you heard me,” he said.
“You—what?” Cynthia glanced around and found—despite her raised voice—no one seemed to have noticed the exchange. She’d been unmoored from the attention of everyone else.
“He will be here tomorrow. He will be sitting here. The one. That one. You have no idea what it will feel like, falling that hard.”
Cynthia had this openness to her eyes, these slight puffs of air pulsing out from her lips. Stepping away, trying to move back from him—to anywhere else—was unthinkable. Like a wall of hazy force boxed her within its confines.
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.”
The man waved out his hands, and light cascaded from his fingers. Twinkling. Crackling. Fireworks contained to slivers of light and power.
“Bullshit, huh, Cynthia?”
She reeled back. “How…who are you?”
“Just a guy passing through. Sometimes people need it.”
“That’s not an answer!” she yelled.
The light of the candle formed a face. A stranger. Yet known. Like she’d seen him again and again, in crowds, in dreams. Not as she imagined, no. This was solid. Not wispy. Not a cobbled thing of matching pieces in others.
And her brain went golden with joy.
“As I said, be here tomorrow. Don’t be late.”
And he snapped his fingers, and, with a rush of the ambient sound coming back in, he was gone.
Special thanks to: Bob Gerkin, Collin Pearman, Dylan Alexander, Jerry Banfield, and Michael The Comic Nerd.
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