“An iced green tea, please.”
“Good deal, can I have a name?” the barista asked.
“Philip,” was the reply.
“Right Philip, I’ll have it for you just down there,” the barista motioned towards the opposite end of the counter.
“Thank you,” Philip said as he moved to the other end of the counter.
He turned and leaned against the counter, a notebook pinned beneath his arm, his back facing the barista and his eyes peering out at the coffee shop’s inhabitants.One person in particular gave his eyes reason to pause. There was a girl seated just next to the front window. She had a spiral notebook and a pen occupying her hands and she was frantically scrawling upon the lined pages of the notebook, transferring her thoughts from the ethereal to the real. She was the only person in the entire shop with palpable paper, the rest were tapping away at the keys of their laptops, scrolling and swiping through the pages of their phones, or a few read from their electronic readers. She was different though. And what’s more, she seemed to be doing the exact thing Philip had gone to the shop to do.
“Here it is, a grande, iced green tea,” the barista called as she capped the cup and passed it along to Philip.
“Thanks again,” Philip said as he took the plastic beverage from the man.
Philip walked towards the table that the girl was sitting at. He sat down opposite her and set his notebook on the table in front of him and his drink just to the side of it. The girl paused in her furious scribbles and looked up, her head still hunched down close to the paper.
“Can I help you?” the girl asked.
“Oh. Do you mind?” Philip asked as he opened his own binder and pulled his fountain pen from his pocket.
“Really? I was working here.”
“Well. You were writing,” Philip corrected her.
“Yes, I’m an author,” she said. She had risen to sit back in her chair now, annoyance gracing her features. She tucked her blonde hair back beneath a grey beanie, she was preparing for battle it seemed.
“So am I,” Philip said. “Writing’s never been much of a job though, has it? It’s always been fun. A place to get away from the real world and live where we want to live, where we can’t live.”
Philip began to write a few words on his paper and paused. He looked back at the girl.
“And look around you. It seems we are the last of our kind,” he finished.
The girl looked at the other people in the shop, all caught up in the new world of instant gratification. The world where anything anyone could ever want was right at the tips of the fingers, concealed behind a window. She looked longingly at the real window beside her, Philip watching her as she did.
“They don’t get to experience what’s on the other side of their windows,” Philip said, reading her thoughts. “That’s another benefit to our profession.”
The girl smiled a bit as the man across the table answered the question she was asking herself.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Philip, Philip Noble. And yours?”
“That’s an interesting name,” Philip said.
“And yours as well. What are you writing?”
“Oh, just a short story. It’s called ‘Bodies of Scars,’” Phillip smiled, allowing his pen to rest on his notebook.
“And what’s it about?”
“Now that wouldn’t be right, I can’t tell you about it, you must read, that is how we share.”
“How am I to read it if you haven’t finished it yet?” Desirée asked.
“I’ll tell you what. Meet me here next week, same time and we’ll exchange work, take it home and read it, offer feedback.”
“I’d like that,” Desirée said as she leaned forward.
“Splendid! I best be going, I’ve got a bus to catch in a few minutes. See you in a week!”
Their correspondence marched on as the weeks marched past. Each week Philip Noble would bring a few new pages of freshly scribbled characters for Desirée Lisette to peruse and in return, Philip would look over the pages that Desirée brought for him. After a few weeks, they began to do more together. They went to the theatre a few times, a real one with real people bringing stories to life on a stage. They dined at restaurants, laughing and complementing each other on the work they had completed that week. Occasionally they would eat at a place with a piano and the two of them would take turns sitting on the small stage, playing original pieces of music and collecting money from other diners who laughed and sang with the two writers as they acted out their lives. There was a time that Philip remembered vividly when the two of them sat laid out under the sun, in the grassy field of a park. They did nothing but lay there, talking about life, about their endeavours and the pasts, maybe breaking into random song now and then. Philip loved her and she, Philip thought, loved him.
Philip loved her so much so that he intended to marry her, and as he went to the shop, he played his proposal out in his head, allowing his current characters to give him praise for the idea. As they passed their stories across the table and talked, Philip could feel the ring in his jean pocket, pleading with him to propose already. The characters in his head wouldn’t stop nagging either, insisting that he set his plan in motion.
“Would you like to come over to my place and watch a movie or something?” Philip asked.
The persistent smile on Desirée’s face grew as she said yes.
With that, they hopped on the bus and travelled back to Philip’s apartment. As the bus rolled along, Philip had his characters act out the scene for himself a few more times. They’d walk in, watch a romantic film and when it was finished, Philip would start to talk about their favorite musical they had seen a few days ago. He’d mention the song from the show, the one where the prince proposes at the end, and then, he’d start to sing it, and when he got to the end, he was going to propose, not as an actor, but for real. It was perfect.
The bus rolled up to their stop and Philip and Desirée got off, they walked the few blocks to his apartment and Philip unlocked the door. He opened it and walked in.
“This is my place,” he said, his arms open, sweeping around the space in front of him like a window wiper.
Desirée reached out and grabbed his arm, holding it outstretched. She closed the door with her foot and pulled herself in front of Philip. That same large smile that had popped up at the coffee shop was still plastered on her face as she touched his lips with her own. Philip didn’t know what was going on, he just stood, allowing her to kiss him, his mouth slightly agape from shock. Her tongue slipped in and she wrapped her arms tight around him, making out with a pole.
As she kissed him she began to pull him with her towards the couch. As they got within a few feet of the couch she released her hold on him and backed up. She sat down and began to unbutton the jean blouse that she had on. Starting with the top she released each button until the shirt was fully open.
Philip stared ahead of him, rooted to the place in which he stood.
“What... are you doing?” he finally managed to stammer out.
“Whatever you want me to,” Desirée replied.
Philip began shaking his head, unable to say anything. He kept opening his mouth, trying to form words but he couldn’t, so he violently shook his head. Nothing but his head moved, back and forth, back and forth.
“What are you doing?” Desirée finally asked as she watched him stand.
Philip Noble said nothing. He just shook his head, back and forth, back and forth. He watched as the grassy park bounced from one side to the other, as the piano keys slammed into imaginary walls creating a cacophonous clanging, as the notebooks slid back and forth; all of the memories threatening to escape from his mind.
“I thought you loved me,” Desirée said, disgust in her voice.
At this, Philip paused in his violent shaking.
“I did,” he managed.
“Then why are you just standing there?” Desirée snapped.
Philip began shaking his head again, much slower this time but with greater speed on each shake.
“Out,” Philip began to say, quietly.
“What?” Desirée asked.
“Out,” Philip kept saying with each shake of the head.
“Are you talking to me?” Desirée scowled, the great smile had long ago left her face.
“OUT,” Phillip yelled, slamming his head into the invisible barrier and staring out the window of his apartment, pain in his eyes.
Desirée was furious as she stood up, slamming each button on her blouse back through the little slits in the jean material. She walked to the door and flung it open and stormed out of Philip’s life, leaving the door open as she went.
Philip continued to look at his window for some time, watching the scenes that now danced beyond it. At last, he turned to the door and walked forward. He shut it and sat down on his couch. He pulled out his pen and held it between his hands, spinning it with his thumbs and index fingers. He snatched a notebook from the coffee table in front of him and opened it. He uncapped his pen and touched it to the paper.
He hoped that on the other side of this window he might find what love really was.