And then in my left ear,
"How do you like your Chromebook?"
I blinked. I choked on foam. "Oh, uh, it's great. Perfect for what I do." I sputtered.
Curiosity came closer and began to read my words. My words. I closed the laptop.
"It's also nice and sleek. Very lightweight. See?" I waved my computer back and forth a bit. Perhaps he would pick up on the subtle symbolism of my actions.
"So, what do you do? You know, that it's perfect for." He stood firm, yet casual at my side. He wore a white pageboy cap and checkered Vans. He held a newspaper, a pencil and Rolling Stone.
"Well, I like to write. I blog a bit."
"That's cool. I studied journalism."
"Do you do that now?"
I spoke the question with hesitation, but I was readily welcomed into his answer, a world I could not have imagined for myself. No amount of precious alone time would have given me what he did.
"Right now I am a dishwasher at my father's house. He has terminal cancer. My mom died when I was 14. My sister is a doctor. My dad is ashamed of me. English is my second language. I also speak an outlawed Iranian dialect. Things were going well until 9/11. It's hard for a hairy brown guy with a Persian name. I went to college in Chicago. I don't know what my goals are. No one has asked me that before. I guess I want to realize my full potential. You go to church every Sunday? You actually like living here? Raising kids is a huge responsibility. I want to be a father some day. I am good at running a tight ship. It's not like running a ship? Maybe it is for the man? I wish I had more friends. True human connection is a lost art. I've never had a girlfriend. My family is ashamed of me. It's like George Carlin once said..."
I didn't know how to ask him to leave. So I asked him questions. Eventually, I asked him to sit. He nearly declined. For one hour and fifteen minutes I shed skeptical and then sympathetic glances in the direction of my uninvited friend.
The bookstore closed. I plodded to my car wrapped in the cool, evening air and exhaled any remaining frustration. Under the glow of the streetlamp, I finally stood alone, my bag and my cardigan hanging by my side. I stared at the ground and tried to unwind from my time to relax. As I looked back up,
I didn't get to write that night.
I got to write this.