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The Girl and the Coffee Shop; chapter 1.5

by Dreamwalker


I sometimes like to think that she knew who I was, long before I ever met her. And that, in some strange coincidence, she willed herself to meet me in a way that I found myself willed to meet her too. Like magnets, and the space between each thought enclosed as did the space between our skin. It’s in these thoughts particularly that I hope in some way, her nature to be as adhesive as mine.

It’s not that I had always thought about her and her alone. I used to like to think of girls, and women, and any with soft, lush, fleshy bits quite a bit more than I should. How, when I would close my eyes, I could feel the pale smooth flesh of a forearm under my fingertips. I’d reach for a hand, instead of the coffee cup that spanned the the faded green and peeling table, or a cheek instead of the muffin I purchased with no real want to eat. Just that, it seemed aesthetically pleasing to have it there. A still-life in the moment. A piece of art in a mundane world.

And maybe thats why I’d been coming to that cafe. Not that I disliked cafes in general. Just that, this little coffee shop was very much the classic crap you’d expect from downtown Toronto, flaking plaster piping and all. And the walls, though covered with thick applications of plaster and primer, painted poorly in a watered down eggplant tone, were far from being unsightly. It was the gaudiness that attracted me. The excessive nature of the peeling chairs or the island with a shelf covered in more flavours of tea than anyone would ever choose. A wall of choices I would never make.

It was all oddly soothing. A black, burnt coffee, dried out muffin, and an uncomfortable chair painted to look like something from an old Italian film. Perfectly contenting, it was.

I suppose this is rather unjust of me to say, seeing as it’s not really the aesthetics that kept me here, even if it had attracted me in the first place. I was far too flighty to keep up with the same routine, and the company was barely worth the time spent waiting for refreshments I didn’t want. It was stuffed with indie queens and self proclaimed human rights activist. Fair trade blend drinkers and aspiring novelists with their macbooks soaking in the free wifi. I had heard more about e. cummings and J. D. Salinger than I did during my university years, which were long and obtrusive and filled to the brim with stuffy english literature. But to be young again, I should think myself quite like them.

I wasn’t eighteen anymore, though. And though I was far from the end of my ‘glory days’ it was not easy keeping myself in place when surrounded in what once was. What could have been. The vanity I had in excess.

No, I don’t think I would have stayed. But these are things that don’t matter now. All that did, was her.

It had been like this for weeks. Ever since she started showing up, I frequented the spot by the front door, and was nearly knocked out of my stool each time it swung open with a herd of newcomers heading for the counter. The only spot I knew would always be open. And it had the best view of the stage.

By stage, it was really nothing grand. Just a raised platform. A sort of corner piece that stuck out of the far wall, painted the same faded eggplant shade, with just enough room for one, or maybe two at most, to stand or sit or do whatever it is artists do. And it was on this exact platform that she sat, feet curled around the legs of a green, chipping, wooden chair, with a beat up old acoustic in her hands where the strings were left unclipped. She would pluck each with the beds of her fingers, slender as they were, creating an almost elated sense of softness. A folky tune that muffled often from the chatter and incessant tapping.

She was singing some irish tune. A Lisa Hannigan number, where the words meshed and melded in a breathy, contralto murmur. Sensuous, the way her mouth would curve as she sang, neck arched and skin taut, so much so you could see the thin trace of her jugular, or the smooth panel of jawline.

She had a frightful haircut. This sort of swoop that crossed her brow, while the rest of her bob seemed short and unnaturally jagged. A style I had seen many a teenage musician wearing these days. She had many piercings in her ears, too. Cartilage and conch and tragus and lobe, dangling with bars and hoops and all kinds of metal. But her face was fresh. Clean and unmasked, like the way her tresses were a soft, natural ashy brown and her eyes were wide and bambi-like, lashes seeming to brush the pale flesh of her cheekbones. Her lips were smooth and plump, the upper being near as pale as the rest of her skin but for a mild tint of pink. The lower seemed almost inadequately small compared, but it was charming.

Charming. Yes, this was one thing I could have noted about her for as long as I had let myself stare. There was something oddly provoking in the way she sang, or the look of her youthful dimples marking when she smiled at a certain line she liked, or found ironic. Charming in the way she wore her clothes a size too big so that her bird-like thinness would be masked and sheltered under denim and cotton and that high-collared white shirt she wore under a black, tight vest. The only time I had ever seen something snugly fit on her, and it emphasized the fact she was tiny, with just small, shadowed bumps where her breasts should be.

But her collarbone was beautiful where the shirt had been left open. Rigid but milky, leading up to her thin, swan-like throat. Every time I looked at it, I wished to press my lips there. Just a quick brush of flesh. And it was these thoughts that brought me back here. Because, as much as the charm was thick, and the sound of her voice inviting, it was the aspect that she was something interesting, and different, and wildly intoxicating with her naive beauty that made me stay.

I think, maybe, I had always been in love with her.

It was unsurprising that there were rainbow coloured pins on her messenger bag, or the stickers on her cell phone with pride emblems quite visible for the world to see. A proclamation of ‘look at me, I’m a dyke’ as if simply being one was not nearly enough. And it made me hesitate, because it was this exact cry for attention that brought many in college to their unprecedented phases. I, at a point, felt like one of them. But unlike them, I never really dug myself back out of it.

So here I sat, with cold coffee in hand, watching a girl who could have been five or six years younger than I was currently, playing a guitar and singing the same set of indie covers for the sixth or seventh time. And all the while, I felt a cold clamp of nausea welling deep within the pit of my stomach where a certain amount of heat seemed to blossom up and over each time I saw her face. And it was good, in that moment.

And every moment, till she spoke that very specific afternoon.

It had the sixth time I had seen her perform. The sixth time, and I had started to memorize the lyrics to each cover, and by the third I had downloaded the originals hoping to savor the sound as much as the image. This, unfortunately, wasn’t so, though the music wasn’t overly unpleasant. Just that, though it was a marvel how the words seem to pull at metaphorical strings I very much liked, it just didn’t seem right unless it came from her lips.

It had been six times since I had first chanced to find myself watching her, and things, as much as they changed that day, would have been so lovely if they remained the same. And though, as much as I should like to think I had been waiting for that one opening, I sometimes wonder if that were really the case.

But this is all conjecture. It’s not important. What is is the time she finally flicked those chocolate eyes in my direction, peering beneath those perfect bambi lashes for just a brief, apprehensive moment, and the voice that spoke, though husky and deep, was one I couldn’t shake.

“This ones for the girl in the back,” she said, lips pulling up at the corners into a soft, hesitant smile. “Who never seems to miss my shows.”

It was in these words, and at that very moment, I had felt the magnetic pulse. That driving force to be near. And in this, I had hoped, and never stopped hoping, that she felt the same.

~~

This is just something I've been working on recently. Don't know if I particularly like it, and it's a bit excessive and gaudy, but its the first prose I've written in a long time so I'm quite pleased over the fact that I've been writing, even if badly. Enjoy ripping it apart!


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Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:29 pm
Sins wrote a review...



Heya, Dreamwalker!

I was just reading your blog about writing prose, so I was very intrigued when I stumbled across this. I'm not sure if this is the same thing mentioned in that blog, but hey ho, I thought I'd review it anyways. Also, I did have a look for a chapter before this one because this is chapter 1.5, but I couldn't find anything... so I'm assuming this is the first chapter. It seems like it anyway!

I sometimes like to think that she knew who I was, long before I ever met her.


I'm a huge opening line fanatic because I think they're so important to a story, and I must say that I'm impressed with yours. It's intriguing and I like the mystery you create by not specifying who 'she' is, so well done on that.

I’d reach for a hand, instead of the coffee cup that spanned the the faded green and peeling table...


You need to cut out a 'the' here!

... or a cheek instead of the muffin I purchased with no real want to eat.


This is incredibly picky, but the use of the word 'want' here read a little strange to me. Something like 'desire' sounds more appropriate, although it's entirely up to you in the end because what you have already isn't technically wrong or anything.

And maybe thats why I’d been coming to that cafe.


You're missing an apostrophe here, sometimes unnecessary commas.

“This ones for the girl in the back,”


Missing another apostrophe. ;)


Overall

Aw, so I loved this and I thought it was so sweet. I adore your writing style because it's the kind of style I don't read often, but I really should because I find it very fascinating. I love some of your descriptions and how you manage to make every single thing sound so beautiful. I'm very intrigued by your narrator too because she has a unique voice, and I really like the concept of a lesbian relationship within a novel because it's the kind of thing I don't see often enough in literature, or within the media in general really.

In terms of critiques, it's kind of hard because not an awful lot has happened yet and, well, you're a great writer, so it's hard to nit-pick what's already good. I suppose I have to agree a little with what JOV said about your description on the girl your narrator's admiring. While I love the description itself because it's awfully pretty, I feel that it ends up getting a little long-winded after a while. I think the problem is that the description is laid down to us all at once, and it spans a whole three paragraphs. They're pretty chunky paragraphs too. If the description was more spread out and/or cut down a bit here and there, I don't think there'd be a problem at all.

As you're so good at descriptions though, you've kind of brought the next critique on yourself. ;) Basically, you've got an array of lovely visual descriptions with a few based on sound thrown in where the girl is singing, but I'd like to see some of the other senses being thrown in more often. Take taste, for example. How does the muffin your narrator always buy taste? It's not visually described in a way that makes it sound appealing, and if you throw in a description of how it tastes (badly, I'm sure), it could give us readers a wonderfully vivid idea of what the muffin is like. Smell is a great sense for a coffee shop too because coffee shops often have a particular smell, so I'd love to hear about that.

Do you kind of understand what I'm saying there? Don't get me wrong because I don't want you to shove as many descriptions down about as many different sense as you can, but I think you could vary them every now and then. It's not that you only rely on sight, not at all. It's just that I think that if you play around some more, you could make your descriptions even greater than they already are. Kapeesh?

The only other thing I want to bring up is punctuation. I'm not sure if it's just because this is a first draft and I know how messy first drafts can be, but you sometimes missed out a few apostrophes and what not. Other than that, there aren't any major grammatical problems, although I did sometimes feel you could've handled your commas a little better. It's not a huge issue at all, and I'm far from an expert on commas, but it sometimes seemed like you used them unnecessarily in some places when they weren't really that vital or anything. I won't go into that much though because I might be 100% wrong as I can't say I know exactly how commas work... xD

Nit-picks aside, I honestly did really enjoy this. It seems like the perfect thing to read with a hot chocolate in Starbucks one winter evening, which is rather ironic! I really hope I get to read more soon, and please do let me know if/when you do post more.

Keep writing,

xoxo Skins




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Wed Aug 22, 2012 1:43 am
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StoryWeaver13 wrote a review...



Ooh, this is dripping with potential. I liked this a lot, primarily because of how well the characters are fabricated; we know virtually nothing about them, and yet I feel as though we've already caught a glimpse of who they are. You're right, there are places where it's a little wordy and excessive, but you also do something that is surprisingly difficult: you use your words. Things flow and make sense and build up as they should, and overall, I liked this.

Keep writing!




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Tue Aug 21, 2012 9:06 am
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JOV97 wrote a review...



A very interesting excerpt, Dreamwalker. The style is very distinctive, and the characters intriguing. Here are some things I noted:

1) Overlong, but beautiful, description

I can see that the description of the girl in this passage is very detailed, and, although this does help convey in a sense how fascinated our protagonist is with her, it also limits the reader's imagination to let them picture the character the way they imagine her to be. Yes, some description is good, but when you delve too deep into every minute detail, it can detract from the scene; too much description is confusing. However, the descriptive language you do use is absolutely beautiful. Just try to cut down on it.

2) Try to vary punctuation!
One thing I picked up on quite soon into reading this passage was the limited scope when it came to punctuation. Try to incorporate more semicolons, dashes, and brackets to add a little variety to the text punctuation-wise. For example, you use a lot of short sentences and this can seem like an overload. Perhaps you could link them together with semicolons? When our protagonist pauses for thought, you could add dashes here and there, or side thoughts could be indicated in brackets.

3) Spelling & Grammar
Overall, spelling and grammar here is very good. But there is one key thing I picked up on: using the word "And," at the beginning of a sentence, especially when it doesn't need to be there! We all know that we shouldn't start a sentence with this word, despite the fact that it's more acceptable in first person prose, but I think it's maybe time to be a little less liberal with them at the start of sentences!

Okay, so those are the three main things I picked up upon for you to maybe consider when it comes to a rewrite. I agree with your comment that the passage does feel a bit excessive, and the setting of a coffeeshop is slightly overused, but on the whole, it's a really well-told story and definitely pulls you in! I would be very interested to read more of this novel, provided some of the kinks are ironed out. But a really great start, with a distinctive style - I urge you to keep working on it!





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