First Meeting

tonight

Rain poured down, almost slant-wise. The wind howled around the brick apartment buildings, slick with water running off the train tracks. Lightning cut open the sky. Dan turned his collar up against the cloudburst and soaked to the skin, slipped into The Gem.

The bar was packed for a Tuesday night. As the wizened barkeep liked to say, all the rats had come in from the cold. Dan took a seat in the front and ordered one of the pale ales Al had on tap, a cheap, fruity blend from Europe. The buzz of the conversation pressed in on him, everyone in tight, leather coats and black T-shirts, wearing bicycle chains around their necks.

“Interesting choice,” a man at his right elbow opined, in a dry tone. Dan ran his hand through his damp, chestnut hair, and turned to look at the interlocutor, prepared to be annoyed. When his eyes got to the man’s face, however, he came to a full-stop, and then to his embarrassment, did a double-take.

The man’s most distinctive feature was his cat-like eyes – green, blue and flecked with amber. His face was angular, almost chiseled out of stone. He had a tall forehead, but his face still managed to have a gentleness about it, a playfulness. Mischief animated the crinkles at the corners of his eyes, when he smiled, as he did now, with obvious bemusement.

His long, thin fingers toyed with the rim of a glass of whiskey, which he turned at odd intervals. Those eyes were alive with the fires of harmless wickedness, genuine fun. He wore a cappuccino shirt and a black jacket.

“I could say the same for you,” Dan retorted, trying to look cool, only to succeed in appearing daft.

The man, his natural hair color a dirty auburn, almost blond, shook his head, “So what’s your name?” His voice was deep and rich, like rivers in an aquifer.

“Dan,” he responded, managing to pull his tongue off the roof of his mouth just in time.

The man shifted closer, his dark suit flowing into the gloom of the bar. His movements were lithe but calculated. His eyes danced with delight and seemed to burn into Dan’s soul, “Dan, eh? May I buy you a drink Dan?”

Dan blinked, dumbstruck. “Sure,” he got out, “And your name?”

“My name is Cai,” he said, another slow grin spreading across his face. He signaled Al over and placed a tenner on the table.

back

Music

Forgot About Dre (Instrumental) – Dr. Dre feat. Eminem

Cry Me a River (Instrumental) – Justin Timberlake

 

Tankers and Feebs

knee kick

Ran stood outside the hotel door, right at peep-hole height. Kaan opened the door, in a cashmere sweater and jeans, “You’re early.”

“Didn’t want you to brood,” Ran said, “Ferment in your own brine.”

“Was I interrupting anything?” Kaan asked.

“No,” Ran answered, “Alli went up to her parents’ house this afternoon. I was left with nothing to do, on a rainy evening.”

Kaan waved Ran in and closed the door, “She didn’t take you?”

“Well, we did just meet,” Ran said, taking in the room, glancing at the chefs on the television set.

Kaan opened the ice bucket and fixed them both two fingers of Fireball whiskey. They sat on the couch.

“How is Beth?” Ran wondered.

“She’s fine,” Kaan said, “She likes the cabin, and Maine. I admit, I’m shocked.”

“Yes, she was always more of a city girl,” Ran said, sipping her whiskey, “She studied literature in NYU. We were in the same Creative Writing classes together. We were the brat pack, with our first books published right out of college.”

“Wow, I wouldn’t have guessed,” Kaan said, impressed.

“You wouldn’t have put it past her, would you?” Ran grinned.

“No, no, I’m not that mean,” Kaan laughed.

Ran drank the rest of her whiskey and got up, “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

Kaan also stood up, “Yes, let’s. I’ve festered in here long enough.”

Out on the city streets, a light drizzle was falling. They caught a cab going Downtown, to Labyrinth.

It was Leather Night at the club. The place was packed with party-goers in black leather jackets and black leather police caps. Kaan and Ran were in the minority, wearing gray and navy-blue blazers, respectively.

At the bar, they ordered margaritas. Ran chewed on her slice of lime. On the stage, a chain-link fence and metal posts had been erected around an octagon. Two amateur female MMA fighters were going at it in a cage fight. The mosh pit of spectators roared their various notes of satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

“Alli’s been through a great deal,” Kaan began, “Are you going to do right by her?”

“Of course! I would, but -” Ran cut herself off.

“What?” Kaan asked, sitting up.

Ran turned to her, “She’s stuck on someone else.”

“Who?” Kaan demanded, and then closed her eyes, “Oh.”

“We look alike apparently,” Ran said, “She is with me, but her mind – her spirit – is obviously elsewhere.”

Kaan fidgeted, “Well, they were together in high school. First loves and all.”

“So, I’m the repeat,” Ran said, “I don’t know whether to be perturbed or flattered.”

“It is possible to hold two competing ideas in your mind, at the same time,” Kaan shrugged, taking a sip of her drink.

“Like her!” Ran said, spreading her hands wide, “Why do I feel like the cuckold here?”

Kaan gave her a look, “I don’t think you should.”

A swift kick to the face brought one of the contenders down. She did not get up. The other fighter stood over the fallen foe in victory, for a moment, before being pushed out of the way by the ref.

“Do you think that some of them throw fights, for gangs or whatever?” Ran said, facing the cage on her stool.

“Sure,” Kaan said, “I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Ran looked back at Kaan, “Do you think people throw relationships too?”

The corners of Kaan’s smirk turned down a few notches, “C’mon Ran. I imagined you to be a tougher soul than this.”

Ran looked back at the scene in the ring. The cadre of the two fighters were yelling at each other, as paramedics pulled the flattened fighter off the mat. The crowd in the pit ate it up, screaming for more.

Neo-Tokyo_Akira

Music:

Saint-Saens – Samson et Dalila, “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix”