More than a week had passed since my laptop was stolen from the new café. New to me I should say, I’d only been there on one other occasion trying to find my footing when I gave the thief a crime of opportunity or was it considered an opportune crime. I wasn’t sure. Maybe that’s why my writing was terrible. My only regret was all the failed stories of magic they might come across if curiosity struck which I doubted.
As I sat in the police station feeling stupid to be reporting said incident it occurred to me that said officer taking the report might be thankful for the paperwork disruption. According to him crimes like this happened and if I really wanted it back I could hang out around sites like Craigslist until it eventually would post as a ‘used’ or ‘refurbished’ laptop.
“It could be worse,” the officer offered. “There could be naked photos you floating around by now.”
My eyes quipped. “Why would that be?”
He shrugged, “People with vendettas photo shop nasty images all the time. Women especially.” He didn’t continue. And I wasn’t sure if he meant women were victims most of the time or the perpetrators. I also wasn’t sure if this cop was intentionally looking for a write up of the suspension kind or if he was just had no filter for these sort of things.
After a day I’d give up with checking the various sites it might appear on. By the second day I’d lost any hope of ever seeing the laptop again and on the third day I drank to the stories I’d lost due to forgetting to back them up. All signs pointed to giving up this writing thing. It had shown not to work out and frankly I wasn’t sure if I was improving.
But then I was contacted by thief.
The thief wasn’t what expected but nor had the weather. For days I dreaded the encounter. Questioned my sanity, wondered if it was too late to get the police involved, would he show if I did… He’d never made any straight out demands which I’d found odd but when I saw the email –
I have your laptop. I’d like to return it. Meet me at the café.
I’m not sorry.
That last line always did it. It was what made the part of me that wanted to be angry rage against a padded room, arms appropriately buckled down because I wanted to just lose it. Why I had this in mind was probably a testament to my own mental standing but I figured it was better than wanting to harm him. And in some scenarios I did. I’d pictured how it’d all go down how the wind would whip just as I stepped. Immediately I’d feel him watching. He’d sit elegantly, my laptop in a bag near his casually propped legs as he took tentative sips from his mug. Because I knew my thief would not fit some cookie cutter stereotype.
In some ways I’d been right and in others ways I hadn’t. But when I arrived before he did and on a beautiful sunny day no less, no wind to whip my recently blown out afro into it’s natural element and no overcast skies I had to rework my expectations. I had to give chance to the possibility I would, without a doubt, be absolutely wrong about this entire encounter. I might even find I was being pranked which had been a scenario but very low on the totem pole due to the amount of timing, lack of friends, and the fact I’d given more weight to the idea there was never a laptop at all.
So I waited for him to show. I stood at the front of the café for naught. No one waved me down. In fact there weren’t many people inside for a Monday morning, granted it was a town holiday so the hustle and bustle might happen later in the day once everyone was done sleeping in from weekend hangovers.
I walked to the counter that was stationed with your typical run of the mill acne ridden teenage kid that had more of a D&D air about him rather than holiday on the beach. It was a non event. In a non event type of place. On a non event type of day. And this would be a non event type of event because my thief had a pension for jokes. I pictured them reading one of my stories which undoubtedly had my contact information on the cover page and instead of just wiping my hard drive he preferred a bit of a fun. So maybe he was here. I looked at the family seated by the window, near the two seated table I’d imagine him at and thought that father definitely looks suspect as he battles his kid for the sippee cup. Definitely a career criminal with his khaki shorts, hairy legs, and “World’s Second Worst Dad” chocolate stained shirt. At least I hoped it was chocolate as I took a seat that allowed me to watch him.
“Care if I join you,” a voice said. I turn my head away and find a tall woman with dark wet wavy hair that comes to her shoulders. She’s dressed simple – black cami and dark blue jeans with a newspaper tucked underneath her arms – and looking only at me. I stare at her and I know she’s staring down at least early 40’s, maybe late 30’s but my eyes wander across her once more, the canvas of her and she doesn’t shuffle nervously but takes the seat aggressively. “You took too long.”
I think I want to say sorry. I think I probably should say sorry for my blatant ogling and I think I might even be but my mouth only hangs open before finally offering, “okay.” The woman shuffles things about reaching beneath the table and leaving with her wallet in hand. She goes to order a drink with her newspaper still tucked beneath her arms. I watch as she places her orders, stand off to the side and massages her shoulder before unfolding the paper to read a tiny bit. She sips hesitantly as she makes her way back over to me, her eyes glued to the article. Her body collapses so effortlessly it’s as if she’d never been erect.
The bell rang signaling a customer entry and it brought me back. More so the gentleman that walked in brought me back. I watched him, felt drawn to him and the black bag slung over his shoulder. He met my eyes once and a smile formed before he turned away. I heard the woman across from me snicker and noticed her eyes were no longer buried in the article but wholly on me.
“You’re not very good at poker are you?” she asks leaning in and I notice how warm her chocolate eyes are against her olive skin. How inviting yet so sinister they are, her lips are quirked as if she’s heard my thoughts and she mouths a words so slowly I’m not sure I’m seeing things.
“I’ve never played,” I answer honestly.
“I believe you,” she says drawing back and taking another sip of her coffee. Fighting my eyes, fighting the desire to stare at her with that cup pressed against her lower lip I look back to the front for the guy. But he is no longer there. I start to look around when she leans in again and the action alone demands my full attention.
“What did you come here for?” she ask me and the question catches me off guard, “what do you want? Anything up there you like specifically? I’ll get it. My way of apologizing for being rude earlier,” she smiles.
“That’s a lie.” Her eyes are wild. “What do you want?” The air stills. Steam billows from the front, utensils clatter, an order is yelled, and my shoulder is tapped. She smiles. I turn and it’s him. Smiling down at me.
“Sorry to bother you,” he says never looking away from me. He adjusts his black rimmed glasses and ignores the woman sitting opposite me. I feel her eyes on me all the while. “The guy at the front said you forgot this,” he had a pastry in a bag.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t order anything.”
“It’s mine,” the woman says reaching between us to grab it from his hand. “Thanks sweetie. Run along now.”
He smiles at us both, nods, and then walks away. What just happened? What’s happening? “This is for you,” she says handing the same pasty bag over to me. “Take it before I change my mind about you.”
I shift in my seat and make my way to stand. She laughs. I pack up my things in a hurry as her laughter bellows. A few people turn in our direction but no one steps over. World’s Second Worst Dad offers a tepid smile as he wrangles a knife from the child that’s more mobile.
I swing my bag over my shoulder, abandon my drink, and exit the café vowing to never return to it. I get to my car and throw my things into the passenger seat. The warmth of the sun beating down on me, reminding me the day is too beautiful to be filled with such darkness. It doesn’t match me. It doesn’t match my twisted insides. It doesn’t feel natural.
And the woman just sits there, in all her beauty watching me. Her smile still riding her lips. I don’t see the guy anymore, the one who fit my bill, the one who might’ve had decided to return my laptop if not for her. She is looking at me more intently, curving her finger beckoning me to come back. I get in my car and slam the door. Squealing out of the lot I hit the road at a menacing speed and it feels good.
I’m racing down. I want to stop feeling. I want to just tap out. I want the magic of my stories to be real. I reach over into the seat to find the cigarettes I vowed to give up only to hear the rattling of a pastry bag but aside from that is the solidness I hadn’t expected. I swerve to the side of the road, throw the car into park and pull out what I suspect I already know.
Pulling out my laptop I spot the yellow stickie with an elegant script with three simple words scribbled onto it-
Thanks for breakfast.
I toss the note and see there’s something on the other side. And that’s when I notice my wallet is gone. I look over to the note, it’s staring at me and I know.
I’m not sorry.