Willfully Human: A Novel

by The Last City 10 months ago in literature

Window 1, Pt. 1

Willfully Human: A Novel

There are times I think I could be a photographer.

As I waited in the restaurant I tried to convince myself of it, with exotic but generic music sinking from ceiling speakers, and low, warm light providing a real-time filter on bland decor. I spent more time than warranted fixated on a candle. Nothing special. Just a small tea candle in a glass enclosure no more expensive than the candle itself. I shifted my gaze, watching the reflection warp through the cut glass. What held me there wasn't the "light dancing gaily on the walls" or the "life-giving glow as the flame lashed out against the darkness". Nothing poetic at all.

It was that the flame moved. The fact that even when the flame seemed still, I couldn't finish "one Mississippi" before it mutated into a new shape, then another, and another. I scanned the walls for vents, open windows, anywhere a draft might be skulking in. I knew there was a simple explanation just a Google search away, but for ten minutes or so, I let myself be engulfed in my quest to discover how a flame protected from any discernible force could still be moved.

This was my lot in life. Enamored with minuscule details that no one else gave a second thought.

By the time everyone had an opinion on a subject, I lost interest. As long as two people already had opinions, it was only a matter of time before the discussion became more about proving their point than conversing. That's why kids are such interesting little creatures. You can go for years without reintroducing something to them. You can show them a firefly, watch the opinions form, debunk their entire idea, and then watch them form it all over anew. Knowledge and experience are pre-existing conditions, conditions we protect from the threat of change.

Then again I can't say much. I had already written off this date as, at best, a chance for me to prove my theory that everyone wants to be liked first and understood later.

Blind dates interest the hell out of me. Not the forced intimacy with a stranger that a stranger thought could be your friend. An actual date without the sense of sight. Still the excitement of hearing a new voice from a comfortable distance, the sensation of leaning across the table to create an unnecessary secret. The tension in your legs as you reevaluate again how close your feet should be to theirs. The first hug while your body waits to see if their scent is agreeable enough to linger a few extra seconds. But without any of those feelings being corrupted by sight.

Or my mind. Are there actually people who can live their entire lives based on what they feel? I can't shake the feeling that "because I felt like it" should never be a reason for anything. It’s a good lie or a stall tactic, but if the only reason for something is because I felt like it, whatever "something" is shouldn't exist. But that’s not true. Damn it. Rather than trying to start a thought over, the mind barrels through, just to finish, look out over the utter vomit of an idea, and insist it’s gourmet food for thought.

My brain is a simpleton.

I felt her presence before I saw her. I was struck by how in the midst of waiters, customers, and streetwalkers beyond the deeply tinted windows, I knew she had just walked in. I shut my eyes, giving my other senses a head start.

"I'm guessing this is where I sit. Only three men here solo and you're the only one who looks hopeful." I imagined I felt a slight vibration through the floor as she pulled her chair from the table. I remembered too late that a "true gentleman" stands when a lady enters the room. And pulls out her chair.

Then I noticed the slight grin on my face, courtesy of her. Well done, Mystery Lady.

"Hey, you can look. I'm pretty easy on the eyes." Deciding not to dig any deeper of a hole, I sat back into my chair and reset my mouth to blithely aloof, only opening my eyes when they were looking down my nose at her.

I felt clumsy, aware that my next words could either reset the balance or make the rest of the night an uphill battle. Her demeanor didn't help. She radiated the stifled joy of a poker player watching the missing card from their hand displayed in the river. Her confidence was equal parts irritating and challenging.

"I'm sorry, but I think you have the wrong table."

It landed perfectly. Her eyes widened, and I again imagined I felt a slight scratching through the floor. This time it was from the quick shift of her feet from “casually crossed” to “full alert”. Her eyes scanned the room, to no avail, then met mine, summing me up. Moments later, a grin spread from her mouth, relaxing her tense shoulders.

Responding to what? Damn it. To my Judas grin.

"Is that so?” she replied. “I was told to look for an average height, average weight, kinda cute guy in a dark blue polo. Tall, dark and 'meh'" She emphasized the last word with a shrug and a voice from a cartoon.

"Let's get the lay of the land, shall we?" I wore a smug smile as we shifted in our chairs, mirroring each other's movements. To my left was a man. Nothing more, nothing less. He ate in motions devoid of purpose, with the same mechanical repetition as an assembly line worker.

I immediately felt. Felt what, I don't know. Curiosity?

It was like seeing someone at a gas station leaning against their car as the pump runs. Not the person talking "to themselves" about how ridiculous the price of gas is. And not the parent tapping the window to remind their kids they can still see them.

No, the person so deep in thought that it takes four or five seconds for the sound of the pump stopping to be processed.

"Eh, couldn't be him." Her voice shook me awake.

“Why's that?" was out of my mouth before I thought it. I quickly added "Pray tell?" to sound less innocuous.

"Well, he's eating." I noticed her stopping her next words short, as if reminding herself that three words are better than twelve.

I grinned as my objective shifted from gaining ground to sowing seeds. "Can't slip anything by you, can I?"

"You're welcome to try." She replied so swiftly it felt scripted. My grin parted just enough to release a chuckle as our gaze proceeded to the other eligible bachelor in the room.

The Last City
The Last City
Read next: 'Chocolate Kisses'
The Last City

The Last City is an Indie Chamber Pop band out of Dallas.

They are currently working on their next project, Willfully Human. It includes an album, a novel , and a few more surprises. Visit www.Patreon.com/thelastcity for more info.

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