I wait outside the café, watching people emerge from the metro. I’m looking for Jessica. The problem is: I’m not sure what Jessica looks like. When I met her she was wearing a thick moustache and bowler hat. She seemed sound. Mind you, she looks very serious in the photograph taken that night. Not in a ‘Haha I’m dressed as a detective and I’m gonna look pensive’ kind of way, just genuinely ill at ease. Maybe it’s because I have my arm around her and we had only just met.
I check the time. Nearly 830. I scan more faces.
At exactly 830 I see her. She is quite striking. Her hair, which is split down the middle, drapes over each side of her face. She’s tall, slim and straight in jeans, jacket and shirt. She sees me and raises a hand in acknowledgment. She looks like she doesn’t wanna be here.
We move towards one another. She looks at me guardedly. We greet in a flurry of awkwardness. It’s a mild night so we agree to take the table outside the café. She sits down and puts her tobacco pouch on the table. I go in to get the beers. Okay, alright.
I set the glasses down and take a seat. Suddenly, all the things I was going to say scamper away faster than the memories of dreams upon waking.
‘So, Jessica, you study Engineering?’ I manage.
‘Architecture,’ she says loosening a paper from its packet.
‘San Sebastian,’ she says dumping a small heap of tobacco on the paper.
‘But you live in Sestao, right?’
‘Santurtzi,’ she smiles, arranging the tobacco with her fingers.
I shake my head in embarrassment.
‘Don’t worry,’ she says, slotting the filter into position. ‘Nearly right.’
She rolls the paper, licks it and lights it.
‘Your name is Jessica though, right?’
‘Yes,’ she smiles, a plume of smoke chasing her affirmation.
We cover the basics. She’s 33 like me. And she’s the youngest in her family too. Her siblings are architects and engineers. They bent to their father’s will in terms of career path, except for her sister Andrea, who is a penniless artist.
She drains her glass. The sound of the glass hitting the table asks, What now?
‘Maybe we could move on, find a nice bar somewhere,’ I say.
‘Well, yes, or maybe just the next bar,’ she shrugs.
We take a table outside the next bar. She insists on paying. We get to talking about music. I mention U2.
‘U2? Wah! When I was younger I was obsessed with U2. Obsessed! I had all their albums, on record. October, Boy, War…’ she says counting them on her fingers.
There’s a brief silence. She’s eager to fill it.
‘I liked them. Yes.’ And then a confirming nod. And then a ‘Hm.’
I gesture towards her tobacco pouch. It’s a brand I’ve never seen before. She nods assent. Diligently, I roll one up. After one drag I have to sit back in my chair. I look again at the packet – Manitou. This isn’t a brand for social smokers posturing outside bars. I imagine the average Manitou smoker is a hard-nosed 40 something man who drinks, gambles and calls everyone ‘chief’; not the svelte, Basque lady with clear pale skin and big brown eyes that sits before me.
‘You’re very attractive,’ I say.
‘Thanks. That’s very kind of you.’
‘Another?’ I say, dashing out the cigarette.
Every time she agrees to another beer I feel a slight increase to some internal heap of hope that glows with giddy promise…
The next day I’m sitting outside a café watching people going about their Saturday. It’s bright and cool and I’m hungover, but happily so. I return to my book. Sheep, it says, have a pecking order. If you had a flock of fifty sheep, each one of them would know their rank from one to fifty. How interesting I think, setting the book down again. I can tell Jessica next time we meet. Hopefully there will be a next time. Should be. She said that there would be. And Last night went well: nice kiss and all. Still, you never can tell.
She’s no sheep -that’s for sure. There is something that sets her apart. Her appearance for a start, but also the way she tells a story: She’s wildly animated – big eyes, hand gestures and voices. It’s spellbinding.
Big into her music too. Suddenly, I remember that she had sent me a song last night while we were in the bar. I take out my phone and find the song. The Triplett Twins. Real seventies look about it. Beneath the band name are six black dudes, paired up and standing back to back. They are wearing white jackets and flared white trousers. They have afros and moustaches. It’s a cheesy cover. Where did she find this? I plug in my headphones and press play.
A keyboard slides between drum rolls. Then the boys start singing, all smooth;
‘Pretty please with sugar on top
Baby give me that love you got
Keep it coming girl good and hot
I don’t want you to ever stop’
I sit up in my chair. It’s hopeful and joyous and captures my mood.
Something Different? The Karaoke Delusion
Something Similar? Hello, what’s this?