“I got to play the violin…” said before he trailed off into a crescendo of Italian opera. “No one should be working on a Sunday,” he continued.
I gave him a sideways glance at him from behind my computer screen. I was curious, but careful not to encourage him. I was trying to get him to loose interest. He continued as he fumbled with his things, taking out papers and putting them back, rearranging the order of his belongings. “That’s why I ain’t got a girl… ya can’t trust them. Hell, I can’t trust myself with them…” I wondered if that was some sort of warning.
A few minutes before he started indirectly warning me from a few empty tables away, he had flung open the door of the café and casually looked me, careful not to be too obvious.
I was sitting alone drinking hot ginger tea in the shady patio of a café in Fort Myers. There was enough seating to hold twenty or so people, but at golden hour on the day of the Super Bowl, sports bars were more attractive to the retired crowd than vegan coffee shops. I was there with my computer, my journal and my kindle, trying to escape the noise of my own home.
“Hello, how are ya,” he said without looking at me as he walked in front of my table, taking a seat at the table next to me. He was wearing a striped polo shirt, jeans and tennis shoes. I noticed from behind his backpack that he hand a hunched back, and he walked with the sort of stride that hinted at an injury that never healed or an aging hip that no longer worked well.
“I’m good, thanks,” I politely said.
“Well it’s Sunday! Everyone’s great on a Sunday! You’ve probably seen me before, out playing violin on the street,” he said, squinting at me from behind his glasses. Before I answered, I turned to him. He was short, middle aged and had stringy, strawberry blond hair. I was scanning him to remember if I had seen him. I hadn’t been in Fort Myers very long, but, there was a chance.
“No, actually I haven’t,” I said with a tone of surprise. When he acted surprised, I didn’t feel like explaining that it was probably me, not him- I only recently got here. I turned back to my computer and started to open the article I was working on.
“But I don’t play on Sundays!” he said, “Sundays are for rest!” I didn’t look back at him this time. I had just gotten to the café and didn’t really feel like talking.
He must have missed singing on a Sunday, because just a few seconds later he belted out, “Ayyyyyy, yaaaaayyyyy yaaaaaaaa……!!!” From my peripheral vision I could feel him staring at me, but I still ignored him. Was this going to be one of those times where if you don’t acknowledge someone they eventually go away?
I started to type a few words when I heard him speaking sarcastically below his breath, chin down as he rummaged through his backpack. “Oh sorry, you’re working, I hate when people keep interrupting me when I’m just on my computer…” I could barely make it out, even though he was just a few feet away. Then, he repeated the same phrase “Oh, sorry, you’re working…” again. I usually don’t mind engaging with strangers, but I could tell he was trying to taunt me.
“Yeah, I’m really trying to work,” I told him, barely looking.
“Well exactly, that’s what I just said, you’re on your computer! Don’t you listen?” he quipped back. Not responding, I kept my eyes on the computer screen in front of me, hoping the words would spill out of me and I could look deep in thought even though I was distracted by this man and thinking of ways to get him to stop bothering me.
I heard him chuckling softly, and then he talked under his breath too quietly for me to hear. He continued to do so for a few more second and then suddenly stopped when I turned to look at him. For the last few minutes I had tried to let him think that his presence meant nothing to me. Now, I stared directly into his eyes, hoping my uninviting glare would deter him.
When he started to talk to himself again, he wasn’t discreet about it. He raised his voice and looked directly at me, his squinted eyes and curled lip showing he was content with himself. “You’ve got big boobs –”
“I would prefer if you didn’t say those things,” I said, cutting him off. I wondered if it was time to ask management if he could leave.
“– and you’re a really pretty girl…” he kept talking as he picked up his backpack and carried it in one arm, slowly making his way to a table further away, diagonal from mine.
He continued to murmur about violins, and working on a Sunday, and girls, until the peppy café employee opened the door and bounced over to him, handing him his smoothie.
He grabbed his smoothie and hoisted his backpack over his hunched back.“You have a good day now,” he said slowly, taking his time as he walked towards the door.
“You too,” I told him, wondering if I meant it.
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.
Featured photo taken in Budapest, December 2014.