He spoke softly and cheerfully. Eyeing Alexe and I as we walked in his store at 2:30pm, he noticed we walked briskly to the back, trying to get a price check on the Italian coffee makers.
He came up from the other isle as we curved around the other. “What can I get you, girls?” he asked with indifference but simultaneous excitement.
Walking past him, we explained we were just after the coffee makers. The market had already closed at 2:00pm. And we were starving, just making a quick stop before heading home Glancing at the prices, we saw that even the smallest one was around $30.00. Too expensive. An investment, perhaps. But one for another day.
He stood, staring at us, with his elbow propped in what looked like an uncomfortable position against the shelf that stored out of our price range coffee makers. He wanted to know where we were from.
He stared at us with boyish eyes. It was a look of intrigue without creepiness. Relaxed, as if his shop wasn’t supposed to be closing or if we didn’t appear to be two famished foreigners with sweat dripping down our faces and hands gripping environmentally unsafe plastic bags full of produce, he smiled.
And what did it matter that we appeared this way? Why shouldn’t we take advantage of the fact that someone wants to chat with us?
“They’re just too expensive,” I explained. “But maybe we’ll come back. What’s your name?”
“Nick,” he said. “Niccola, but you can call me Nick.”
Noticing the European flair to his name, I wanted to know where he was from. So many in Melbourne have stories of recent family migrations. I pass elderly couples speaking German, Italian and Greek often. I asked if he was perhaps Italian.
“Habibi,” was all he said. A clue. A subtle hint of his mother tongue.
“You’re Lebanese!” I said excitedly.
We parted ways soon after, leaving me with a thousand questions. My stomach had control over me that day, but I’ll be back to the market soon, with my eye on the Italian coffee maker and my heart set on a good conversation.
This post is part of weekly series titled Character Tuesday, where every Tuesday I bring you a story about (a) unique individual(s) I’ve encountered. Like I always say, life can be good or bad, but as long as it’s entertaining, that’s all you need. This series is meant to celebrate our quirks and idiosyncrasies.