Let’s pretend that you are a woman, sitting at a café on Hamra Street, reading a book.
Let us also pretend that you are a regular customer at this café who spends her Sundays scrutinizing people, readings books, newspapers and magazine as well as striking conversations with complete strangers whenever you feel chatty.
However, today is different. You keep to yourself. You watch those around you cautiously, you rarely talk to anyone, let alone show any interest that would invite others to speak to you. You sit by yourself, your eyes caressing page after page of a crime thriller (yes you are reading a thriller for the first time in your life and you love it for a change).
Let us also pretend that you cannot concentrate and that the reason behind your short attention span is someone so charismatically dressed in black, sitting at the table in front of you. No, he is not looking your way. In fact, he is not looking at anyone except the cigarette in his tough masculine and sexy hands. Yes, you decide his hands are sexy. It seems as if he is contemplating the existence, the reality of the cigarette burning between his fingers.
You keep eyeing him with interest, yet with great caution lest he becomes suspicious and takes you for a creep. However, nothing in his behavior or demeanor suggests that he is willing to disregard his cigarette for one second, let alone raise his sight your way. Your only choice is to wait for the cigarette to die out. You wait. Your eyes stroll down to the rest of his face, to his body, his clothes, his posture. You take in everything.
You decide to give him a name and start thinking of guy names you like. Kareem. It is all you can think about when you look at him. It is as if all the names in the world were simply erased from your memory at that very second. Taking it a sign from whoever is responsible for planting signs in people’s lives, you finalize your decision: Kareem it is!
Kareem shifts in his seat, stubbing his cigarette in the silver ashtray in front him as you make your way back to his face again. You did need more time to assess the situation, after all he did take you by surprise, he did not smoke the whole cigarette and crushed it before the deadline of its life expectancy was over; the one you predicted that is.
Now what? Does he look at you? No! He drinks his coffee in silence and starts jotting down notes on a brown leather moleskin notebook. He drinks it black, blank like the ink now flowing from his pen. You try to stretch your gaze one more inch, enough to touch the linings of his pages, but you fail as you follow from far the slant, then straight, then circular movements of Kareem’s pen.
You wonder what he is writing and to whom, if he is writing to anyone in particular. You do not wish to speak to him. Funny how you only feel the need to keep staring at him, to learn his secrets by heart in silence. You are not a romantic, never were, never will be. But you appreciate the charm and seduction of a mystery. Today, you have it right in front of you, all yours to possess and obsess about. You consider yourself lucky as you fumble through your bag for any leftover Dunhill from last night. You find one, you light it and slowly inhale your first for the day. Luxurious. Or so you think. Kareem looks at you as you smile to yourself. Smokers do tend to cherish their first cigarette of the day a bit too much, too hastily that a stupid smirk slips from them and plasters itself on their faces before they have the time to catch themselves and rebuke their impulsiveness for being so impulsive. But you don’t. You love being impulsive, it gives you character. So moving on, Kareem catches your smile only to return to his writing as if he never noticed you. You are not so much interested in talking to him as much as in finding out what he is scribbling in that notebook of his. But before you have time to devise a plan to steal Kareem’s notebook from under his pen without him noticing, Kareem gets up to leave. He throws his notebook and pen into his brown leather mailman-bag (you always wanted one of those), slides it around his neck and over his shoulder, lights a cigarette and leaves without looking behind.
On impulse you decide to leave too. As you try to guess which way Kareem went, you notice a piece of paper stuck (on purpose) under Kareem’s ashtray. You rush for it before anyone sees you, before the waiter feels generous enough to clean the tables, before he comes back for it, before you change your mind.
Slipping the paper in your pocket you realize that you have lost Kareem. You don’t know which way he went. Before you even contemplate the content of the note, you make your way to the nearest bar for an amaretto sour, it is almost 7 anyways. You need to feel like yourself again. You do not even know the color of his eyes. You decide that that bothers you. You carry yourself to the bar, select the darkest spot, sit on a stool, order your drink and burry your head in your book (there is enough light to read). Your attitude keeps strangers, friends, acquaintances and others at bay; yet, it is clear that you want to be left alone. Even Sam the bartender decides against poking his nose in your business tonight. When your drink arrives and your cigarette neatly burning in your hand, you take out the note from your jacket pocket and carefully unfold its content against the cover of the thriller in front of you.
At first it does not make sense. Neither the shapeless illustration nor the amalgam of words and numbers swimming within it. Is this a joke? You start to detest your small dark corner. You feel yourself drawing inside it. You do not like the feeling, but are excited by the brush of a mystery against your life. You decide to embrace it, over another amaretto.
Mind you, you are not a heavy drinker. In fact, you body simply cannot contain its alcohol. Come to think of it, it might have a little trouble containing yourself, but you can’t hear its protests just yet. But tonight, tonight is different. You spot Sam looking suspiciously your way, you raise your glass to him, you do not want him to start having any weird ideas about you now.