Arthur didn’t mean to fall in love on a Tuesday.
He’s not saying he has exactly, only that it wasn’t in his itinerary.
What was in his itinerary had been something quite different. Important meetings with very important people at the firm. As in name-on-the-letterhead sort of important.
And Arthur wasn’t nervous by nature—submitting to some tenuous worry was not his style; he was not a fainting southern belle. Still, he hadn’t slept much the night before—or, at all really. Which was not unusual. He’d made it through much of his career in about the same fashion when the occasion called for it: sleep-deprived but jittery, his heart thundering in his chest, soaked so thoroughly in gas station caffeine that he was sure it was coffee, not blood, that coursed his veins—but he was on point. Always on point.
Perhaps it wasn’t the best of methods, but it did well-enough in a pinch. He could not be yawning during his very important meetings with very important people; yawning didn’t land anyone a partnership. Of course, he might be headed toward a stroke (he wasn’t a doctor, what did he know?), but at least he’d be the guy who had a stroke and his name on the most prestigious law firm in the city.
The promotion was his, of this there was no doubt. Because Arthur believed in certain things. Not crystals or horoscopes or fate. Arthur believed in himself. He believed in the reward of his hard work and that his diligence would pay off because there was no other alternative. It was not some gamble, it was not luck: it was calculable, his future. And oh how he’d calculated. He had complete faith in what he, Arthur Callahan, brought to the table in terms of skill and knowledge, both what he already possessed and what he would acquire given the privilege of this great opportunity… he’d rehearsed his speech about a dozen times and he stood by every word.
And yet. There was a problem. No, not so much a problem as it was a hitch, an unforeseeable wrench thrown, as it were, into the works.
Of course, by “hitch” Arthur was underselling the whole affair, given the importance as his very future was being diverted by this thing, this minor delay, this wrench. He was much too calm, and he knew it perhaps in that way one sees but refuses to acknowledge events are well beyond one’s strenuous control, despite one’s faith, skill, and aforementioned hard work. It was that sort of glazed, slow-unhinging calm as though truth was sure to catch up, and quickly, and it would be rather unpleasant in all of a twenty-mile radius.
As it was, important people at important meetings could not be suitably impressed if one were unable to attend such meetings because one was stuck at the police station.
Stuck, being a funny term of perspective.
By all rights, Arthur did not need to be detained at the station. He’d not been the one to commit the crime after all, he’d only, well he’d just…
It happened like this.
Sleep-deprivation being what it was and going so solidly in hand with his temporary caffeine addiction, Arthur had made a stop to fill his thermos. He’d been returning to his car when he heard the shouting.
Two men running down the street toward him, or in his general direction. One was doing most of the shouting. He seemed to be chasing the other man, just feet ahead. He also appeared to be a police officer.
The pair reached him well before he’d really had time to think. He’d only reacted—react being a doing word as the first of the two (the criminal, he would learn) barreled straight into Arthur, overturning his thermos of hot black coffee directly down his shirt front. Bad enough, had the criminal not immediately attempted grand theft auto with his grey Saturn. Not that the grey Saturn held much, if any, sentimental value (or real value) but there was his suit to consider, and the rudeness of some people.
Arthur had only done what any able-bodied American late-twenty-something would have: he attacked the man with his briefcase.
Arthur was not a violent person. He repeated this a few times to the officer and to the attempted car thief as well, after it was over. The criminal shrunk away from him and tried to stop up his bleeding nose, actions made awkward by his handcuffed wrist—which had probably been sprained, if not actually broken. The officer on the other hand did not stop staring. It was a decidedly good kind of stare, yet off-putting just the same; awe.
The officer was handsome enough, with the sort of skin-deep gruff and improper charm that Arthur knew he could go for in a big way. But there were better circumstances for these things, namely when he was less caffeinated and adrenaline-fueled, and there wasn’t coffee staining his front. Of course, also, there was the job thing, which looked like it was shaping up to be a big non-happening thing. Because of the coffee stained suit for one, and this whole questioning thing that seemed to be taking much longer than necessary. Statements corrected the officer (Eames, Arthur failed to catch if that was first or last name) as though it was just as hugely important as the course of Arthur’s very future.
Statements that, apparently, required a trip to the station, Officer Eames reiterated, sounding positively indecent. If Arthur was up for it.
Arthur did wonder how such a banal sequence of words, no more than appropriately-placed letters and vowels really, could be so absurdly seductive.
When Officer Eames put his hand on Arthur’s back, gently, almost without thought it seemed, it was really too much. Really.
He was in shock perhaps. That had to be the most logical explanation. And Arthur did so like being logical. Plus, it was his civic duty wasn’t it? Surely.
He doesn’t call the law office, but finds himself at the police station approximately twenty-four minutes later.
Stuck, as he could easily put it. Although that doesn’t seem quite right.
Eames’ office—a desk actually, bordered by nothing more than a column on one side, uniquely placed so that it somehow gives an air of separate-ness, seclusion from the rest of the bustling police floor, this general admittance room full of cops that don’t look like cops with ringing phones and bulletin boards and lots of coffee cups.
There was an abundance of personal effects at Eames’ desk. No pictures of family, Arthur noted with suppressed curiosity.
It turns out that “statements” accumulate to a rather small stack of papers, mostly educational and hardly worth the drive. He’s acquainted with them in a general sense, more from the other side of things, as evidence. But there’s also a mug shot for Arthur to study, just in case his memory isn’t what it should be, and it’s so endearingly diverting Arthur can’t help but play along. His actual official statement appears to be something that has already been done up, printed in fact, which was terribly impressive, though suspicious.
And Arthur truly suspects ulterior motives in play when the copy machine eats three sheets of paper and runs out of ink “mysteriously” and Officer Eames has the worst of trouble turning on his computer. Ten minutes at the station somehow becomes an hour of quaint distraction and ridiculous excuses which slips surprisingly easy into genuine conversation, small talk that feels big, punctuated by endless innuendo that Arthur finds actually charming.
He learns that the odd lilt to Eames’ voice (last, a first is neither given nor requested) is a British accent worn-down by years State-side, though it becomes less-concealed when he’s excited and talking rapidly. Eames doesn’t have much family worth mentioning and lives alone with a goldfish named Fish. He enjoys good take out and the occasional game of Ultimate Frisbee. Arthur ends up telling him about his night classes (“the unfortunate circumstances after a truly awful third year”), his feverish desires to be a lawyer for all the good unsullied reasons, about his overwhelmingly supportive mother and that his father’s automotive repair business is less of that and more of a grease-lined garage where he tinkers for trade.
“Vegetables are standard cost for an oil change,” Arthur admits. “Throw in a pie and he’ll rotate your tires.”
“Fruit or cream?” Eames asks, with a look of utter sincerity.
As an hour turns into two, and the pretense of unwilling-detainee/professional-civil-servant is forgotten, Arthur is settled into a chair comfortably, crashing slowing from his caffeine-high, somehow unconcerned about the permanent stain on his shirt front.
“Are you going to hold me here all day?” Arthur asks finally of soon-to-be-Detective Eames, not at all attempting to be suggestive and yet ending up with his elbows on the desk, his face ridiculously scrunched, like he’s nothing more than a fifteen year old with a stupid crush.
“Darling, I’d hold you anywhere,” and Eames immediately cringes. “Oh that was utter shit wasn’t it?” He laughs and it’s the infectious type. “Damn,” he swears, running his hand over his face and coming up unmasked somehow, open. “It’s been…”
“A while,” Arthur fills in, a half-laugh emerging without the usual discomfort and bad memory.
Eames watches him, quiet, unguarded still but with a hint of a smile, and Arthur squirms a little, clearing his throat.
“So, are you always this…” Arthur gestures for a moment, a hand through the air while his brain slugs for the appropriate term, coming up finally with “ingratiating?”
“As often as I can be,” he grins, wickedly so, and Arthur believes it.
Officer Eames pushes a card across the desk then. It’s a business card, or something. Arthur didn’t know cops had business-or-something cards. He imagines it would have little cartoon guns on it, or “To Protect and Serve” embossed across the top. It disappoints. It is in fact an ordinary business card, printed with Eames’ name, badge number, and the address to the precinct with a phone number below.
“That,” Eames says, fingers lingering on the card, one pointing to the number, “rings here.” He gestures to the phone on his desk. “And this,” he turns the card over, where on the back he’s hastily written both a different number and address, “rings here.” He pats the top of his thigh, where, presumably a phone is tucked into his pocket.
Arthur thinks it time to leave. There’s something as definite as it is unclear happening to the inside of his chest. He swallows, thickly, his mouth dry, and stands, outstretching his hand.
“It’s been a pleasure,” he says, trying not to be completely awkward. Eames takes his hand and holds it long enough to be significantly noticeable.
“Absolutely,” Eames replies in just the sort of way Arthur expected him to.
Arthur’s not two feet away, trying to remember where the door is, clutching the card too tightly in his hand when Eames’ voice stops him, turns him round.
“Do you believe in fate, Mr. Callahan?” he says, because he would say that. He just would. He’s cocked an eyebrow, looking for all the world like it’s the most important question of his whole day. Maybe his whole life.
Arthur isn’t sure what he believes anymore. Or, doesn’t believe rather. Or both. This morning he hadn’t believed in fate at all. This morning he’d thought he was going to become a real partner of a real law firm. He’d had his future in the palm of his hand. And then: a wrench, a charming and unmistakable hitch. Not the coffee or the attempted car theft, but the after. Officer Eames.
If the universe wanted to get his attention, Arthur supposed there were worse ways.
Arthur realizes then that the slow-unhinging calm has come and gone like a wave and in its wake is something else entirely. The truth of it all is not exactly unpleasant.
So he nods. Because what the hell.
And Eames smiles in such a way that his mouth doesn’t even seem to move—Eames smiles with his eyes, this bright emerging joy, radiating across the curve of his face, from the small lines at his eyes through the stubble on his cheek.
Well, Arthur didn’t mean to fall in love. But here he is, stuck.
Although it’s all a matter of perspective.