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A Punk Walks in to a Coffee Shop

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Lake Quad. Lake Quad. Founders. Founders. It really does look like penis, shit. Mont-Tremblant. A goose. Goose. Goose. Carajo!

 

Jack put his head in his hands, the cold metal of his rings pressing into his skin and calming him. All he wants to do is take photos, not deal with any of the bullshit of portfolios. The pictures on his laptop in front of him are starting to blur together, nature shot after boring nature shot.

 

“But you want to get better and continue your education,” Professor Gold had said, shrugging, “I hate it too, but it’s part of the gig of being an artist.”

 

Artist. Jack scoffs. He’d hardly call himself an artist. He doesn’t have anything important to say. He’s not providing any new perspective.

 

His head goes down to the table. He’s being melodramatic. His art is fine. He provides an interesting viewpoint on his surroundings.

 

Jack’s phone buzzes on the table. Larissa responding to his previous text.

 

Larissa 1:17

B there in 20

 

Good. Someone sensible can be here to get this train wreck back on track. Jack is a mess.

 

The bell above the door of Annie’s rings. Jack goes back to looking through his photos with a heavy sigh.

 

“Hey, Bella!” The student who just walked in greets the Annie’s baristas like old friends. Southern accent shocking compared to the usual Boston diction Jack has gotten used to hearing. Different from his own French-Canadian lilt.

 

What Jack notices first is the shock of color atop the man’s head: a mohawk starting in a rich purple at his forehead and going through a true blue, a bright leaf green, sun yellow, and shocking orange before ending in a ruby red patch at the back of his neck. His ears are pierced through the cartilage in various places, but not the lobes. He’s almost drowning in a denim jacket, riddled with patches and pins that Jack can’t read from this distance. He clomps up to the counter in heavy black cargo boots, loosely laced and threaded with live flowers.

 

Jack can’t stop himself from staring.

 

“—you know I have heard nothing but bullshit about that class!” The man exclaims at the counter, “Sommers is tenured and, like, it shows I guess.” He leans against the counter and chats with ease. A hand runs through his hair as he listens to the barista respond.

 

Jack forces himself to mind his business. He’s got a portfolio assignment to finish and wants something to show for himself when Larissa comes to help him.

 

“Well, I’m sure you’ll do fine. Just tell him what’s what and that you won’t play his little games if he starts acting up.”

 

God, the man has such a nice voice; honey tones and sweet words that he shares so easily. Ever since the man has walked in the whole café feels brighter. Jack’s fingers twitch with the want to brace himself and get up to introduce himself. But who’s he kidding? He’s never been that bold.

 

But if Larissa were here, she’d tell him to go for it.

 

“Here’s your pumpkin spice, Bitty.”

 

“Thanks, sugar!” The man hitches his back-pack back up on his shoulder and takes the extra-large mug b the handle. He’s careful to keep the giant, wobbling pile of whipped cream dusted with cinnamon from sliding off. Face contorting into a scowl of concentration.

 

He sits at the table right by Jack, settling in with his coffee and his phone.

 

Jack looks down at his fingers poised on his keyboard. The sparkly nail polish that Larissa put on him is chipping, would you look at that. The abstract shapes are just so interesting. And he never realized how good his amethyst druzy ring looked in the afternoon light. Maybe he should take pictures of gemstones from now on. Oh, merde, there’s a hole in his patterned tights. He’ll have to order some more pairs so he doesn’t get stuck with only ripped pairs.

 

He looks up again, and the man is looking at him. He smiles, and looks back down to his phone.

 

Damn it, get it together, Jack.

 

He goes to his folder of unedited photos, and works on the color balance of a few shots from the summer. He’s got a collage project to start and he thinks abstracting some of the photos he has to use for that.

 

See? He can not be a gay disaster when he wants to.

 

A near empty mug sets itself down on the table, followed by the whoosh of the rainbow-haired man sitting in the chair aside from him. “Hey, do we have a class together or something’?” he says, “You look so damn familiar.”

 

His accent is devastatingly attractive. As well as his big brown eyes, and the gentle raise of his eyebrows, and the silver bar through one. There are a few, pale freckles on his almost dainty nose. Probably fading from the lack of summer sun.

 

“Uh…?” Eloquent, he knows. But his throat is dry and it’s hard to get air inside his lungs.

 

The man giggles a little, and tips his mug back to finish the dregs of his latte. “Have we met before?” he repeats once he’s done.

 

Jack shakes his head, he’s never seen this angel in his life.

 

“Well, I’m Bitty,” he says, extending a hand.

 

Jack reaches out and takes it, “Jack.”

 

Bitty gives him a strong shake. His hand lingers on Jack’s, and Jack can feel the rough callouses on this man’s hand.

 

He’s breathless when Bitty pulls away fully.

 

 “It’s nice t’meet you, Jack. I have a killer load of homework to do though, so I’ll see you around.” He winks, and gets up from the chair to leave.

 

“Oh—Oh… bye!” Jack calls.

 

Bitty grabs his back pack, puts his mug in the bus bin and walks out of Annie’s with a spring in his step. Jack follows the movements of the large patch of Michelangelo’s David on the back of his jacket.

 

Bitty looks back once through the front window of the coffee shop, and gives Jack one little wave. Jack scrambles to look away, cheeks burning up.

 

In a rush, Larissa comes in and falls into the seat Bitty had just left.

 

“Sorry I’m late. That girl in my printmaking class asked me out again! Can you believe it. I feel bad turning her down, I’m just not—” she gets a good look at Jack. “What’s wrong?”

 

“I just—I just met this guy and…” Jack finally looks at her, “I’ve never met anyone like him.”

 

She turns around immediately, looking for Bitty. “Did he just leave? Did you get his number?”

“Yeah, he left… and no, I didn’t—there wasn’t time for that.” Jack shakes himself, he didn’t even think to get his number god dammit. He grabs his empty mug of tea, “What do you want to drink?”

 

“Jack! Tell me about the guy!” Larissa cries. Jack hurries away, embarrassed he didn’t get his number or a word in other than ‘oh’ or ‘um.’ He gets another cup of mint tea, and a matcha latte for Larissa.

 

He watches the barista as she puts together his drinks. Bitty had talked to her like they were friends. Maybe she could pass on his number to Bitty. Or maybe Bitty just comes here so often he knows the staff well.

 

“Here you go!” Two mugs are set in front of him. And the barista, Bella, gives him a bright grin.

 

“Thank you,” he says. He doesn’t ask for Bitty’s number, or for her to give his number to Bitty. He doubts Bitty would want it.

 

He goes back to his table and hands Larissa her latte without a word.

 

She lets them sit in quiet for a moment, Jack can feel her eyes on him.

 

“What’s wrong?” she questions.

 

Jack sighs, “I’m just… single.”

 

Larissa bursts out laughing, “Oh, Jack.”

 

“Have you started the reading for Advanced Theory?”

 

“No? Who do you think I am?”

 

He chuckles, “It’s tough. You should start it.”

 

“Oooor… you can tell me all about it before class tomorrow!”

 

Jack rolls his eyes, “It’s good stuff, Larissa.”

 

She mocks him, and they keep drinking their tea and working on homework. And if Jack keeps looking out in the window in hopes that he gets another glimpse of a rainbow mohawk then that’s his business.