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falling doesn't feel so bad (when i know you've fallen this way too)

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2 März 2024

Matteo looked extra sleepy today, David noticed when he walked in.  But somehow it only added to the charm of the way he yawned and  ruffled his hair before he caught David’s eye from the serving window.

Matteo gave him a small, shy smile.

David ate slowly that day.

He sketched lazily, letting his pen bleed through the napkins, breathing black tendrils through delicate white fibers. Like catching a wandering ghost, if lost spirits could be trapped in the spaces between ink and canvas.

He wanted more chances to observe Matteo as he bustled around the kitchen, calling to Amira when orders were ready and, more than once, shoving Mohammed playfully when they crossed paths coming in and out of the kitchen.

He wanted to know what it was like to spend hours working alongside Matteo every day, to watch him put his skills to the test and come up with the exciting dishes that clearly brought him so much joy.

David had never been the adventurous type when it came to food. He was used to getting what he knew he liked and not having to dwell on choices he’d never made before. He didn’t like to go above and beyond just for a meal, which was the original reason why he had come into this place only a couple blocks away from his new job in Berlin. He was hungry, he needed a meal, and he got one. Safe and efficient problem-solving.

It wasn’t so simple now, and for a boy from Hamburg who had longed his whole life for everything else to be as simple as a sandwich, it felt like he had been doing this to himself without realizing, up until now.

No longer did he come into the shop just because he knew exactly how crispy the bread will be every time, or because he could get one of Mohammed’s cranberry muffins to go if he felt like it.

Somewhere down the line, he’d started coming for that recognizable shock of blond hair that usually stuck every which way while still falling into a pair of forget-me-not blue eyes, because he really could never forget Matteo. Wouldn’t begin to dream of it. No, these days, he cared more about the careful hands making his sandwich than the sandwich itself, and he found himself holding his breath to fully take in the timbre of Matteo’s gentle voice whenever he spoke to David.

And yet. He knew that despite the difference in his motivations now versus then, that didn’t mean he wasn’t just another regular to Matteo, another check he could count on cashing in. Sometimes he could almost convince himself into thinking that Matteo did notice him that way as well--he’d caught him staring enough times that it was plausible--but David liked to chalk it up to the fact that he was just weird.

He did tend to stand out, after all. The strange guy who worked in a theatre and always wore black from head to toe. The brooding artist who drew on his napkins and ordered the same boring things every time.

The boy who--well, who had to try harder than other boys to be seen as who he was.

David didn’t blame Matteo, if he could see right through him.

***

9 März 2024

He was late to work today, and late getting out for lunch, so it was almost one o’clock when he finally made it into the shop and he only had half an hour to eat.

Amira brought him his order. “Need anything else, David?” She placed a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m fine, Amira, thanks.” He managed to get the words out while wolfing down half of his food in a couple of bites. “Just got a lot going on today.”

She nodded at him, pursing her lips slightly. “Doing okay?”

He did a half-shrug. It was about as accurate a reflection of his mood as anything. “Oh, you know how it goes. Sometimes…” He paused. “Feels like everything’s happening at once.”

Amira nodded again, face softening. “Of course, we all have those days.”

David didn’t tell her it had been more like weeks, or months. Instead, he steered the conversation away from himself.

“Tell me what’s going on here lately. I heard Matteo was looking to set up some events here or something like that?” He’d gotten wind of the news through a few of his colleagues at the theatre, who had apparently received phone calls from Matteo asking if they had anyone interested in singing for modest pay and free food. Niko and Samer had both apparently found it very amusing, but David had been deathly afraid that they would jokingly recommend David to perform there, and then Matteo would have found out in the most embarrassing way possible that David sings.

“Yeah, he wants to make this place a little more youth-friendly. Which is funny because we’re all under twenty-five, but our customers tend to be on the older side.” Amira laughs. “We thought that letting a few bands book gigs here would do the trick, but we need to do a lot more before we can actually use this as a space for performers.”

“I know a thing or two about performance spaces,” David grinned. “If you need some help on that front, I’d be glad to do what I can.”

“Would you really?” Amira grasped his shoulder gratefully. “That would be a really big help.”

“I have some sound engineer buddies I can call in.” David scrawled down some names on his one remaining clean napkin. “And set builders. See if we can’t wrangle up a decent stage for you as well.”

“This is very kind, but I feel like we would be asking too much of you.”

“Not at all.” David shook his head. He would do anything to make Matteo happy, of course, ridiculous as it may have sounded.

“Then, let me at least comp your meal for today.” Amira told him.

David laughed. “Okay, fine. I’ll let you know what I manage to figure out and we’ll see if we can have your first band night in here by the end of the month.”

Amira gave him a high five. “Dude, I’m so excited.”