by Sini-Petriina Kuusisto
Over the great city,
Where the wind rustles through the parks and gardens,
In the air, the high clouds brooding,
In the lines of street perspective, the lamps, the traffic,
The pavements and the innumerable feet upon them,
I Am: make no mistake—do not be deluded.
Think not because I do not appear at the first glance—because the centuries have gone by and there is no assured tidings of me—that therefore I am not there.
He smirks at the customer and grabs a pair of scissors from the leather holster strapped to his hips. Japanese steel, I presume.
“Excuse me, miss?”
His cheeky smile dazzles in the artificial light and I’m fully aware that I’m staring. After all, I’ve chosen the window seat for a reason.
His left little finger is cut from the first knuckle. For six weeks now I’ve wondered what had happened.
Think not because all goes its own way that therefore I do not go my own way through all.
The slight annoyance in the tone draws me back into the café, away from the barbershop across the street. The man hovering at my table is not getting the hint; I’m trying to have a moment here.
Yes?” I snap, finally facing the eccentric old fart. He smells somewhere between death and roach spray.
“Would you mind terribly, were I to join you?”
I want to roll my eyes and snort. Instead, I smile and apologise for not acknowledging him earlier. The cafe is packed.
“Please,” I say and gesture him to take a seat. I’m even kind enough to make some space for his cup of tea.
“Excellent. Thank you.”
He sits down and I pretend to go back to my lecture notes.
The fixed bent of hurrying faces in the street—each turned towards its own light,
seeing no other—yet I am the Light towards which they all look.
I bite my teeth together so hard my jaw hurts, but manage to at him smile politely—I think.
“Yes, it is,” I agree and nod in affirmation. Small talk has never been my jam.
“She’s very handsome too.”
I have no idea to whom he’s referring to. Neither am I interested enough to ask.
“Yeah, sure,” I nod, feeling like a bobble head toy. I must look like one too.
As my new companion leans forward to take a sip of his tea, I travel back to the barbershop and automatically seek him out.
The toil of so many hands to such multifarious ends,
yet my hand knows the touch and twining of them all.
The way he crooks his thumb to snap the scissor blades together in fast repeated clicks is fascinating to me. A passing thought of him running his fingers through my hair sends shivers through my body.
“I remember my first love.”
I close my eyes in irritation and briefly imagine stabbing the senile bastard.
What is it with the elderly? Tweet your reminiscences to other antiques; they have all the time in the world! I, in contrast, have precisely seventy five minutes to relish my Tuesday view.
“It was quite something. George and I.”
The name grabs my attention. George? The fact that the man is dressed for a Downton Abbey cosplay-event should really have given me a clue; no straight guy would wear tweed that tight.
All come to me at last.
There is no love like mine;
For all other love takes one and not another;
And other love is pain, but this is joy eternal.
“You should invite her to dinner.”
I blink in confusion. Invite who? “What?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Is dinner no longer considered an appropriate dating activity?”
The man’s blabbering has no logic to it.
“I guess. I mean...” I have no idea what I mean. “Like, I guess?”
“Excellent. I think she’d like that.”
Clearly, the man is in a world of his own. I should leave before he drags me deeper into his afternoon hallucinations.
“Yeah, okay. Sure,” I say and start collecting my things. “I’ve gotta run. But like, it was nice to meet you,” I lie with a smile.
“My pleasure,” he says and hands me a business card. “Here. In case you have any questions.”
Questions about what? The man is more delusional than I originally gave him credit for.
“Yeah, okay,” I say and stuff the rectangular piece of carton into my rear pocket.
I make it outside and sigh in frustration. Now I have to find a new place for my Tuesdaystalking or possibly endure the company of my new friend more chronically. Alternatively, I could just take the man's advice and ask the barber out.
I blame fleeting insanity for the fact that fifteen steps later I find myself in the barbershop. I meet his eyes through the mirror and he flashes me a toothy grin.
“Can I help you?” he asks brightly and turns around. The name-tag on his chest says Charlotte.
“Charlie!” someone yells from the back before I have time to react and he- She? -turns to the voice.
I take the broken eye contact as a cue and storm out. I rush around the barbershop corner and hide at the back alley. My heart races a motorcycle passing by and wins by a mile. I feel a little dizzy. The crush I’ve been harbouring for months suddenly feels alien.
I skip my lectures that day. Instead, I ask Quora, Google and WikiHow whether subconscious lesbianism is “a thing”. The cyberspace offers no adequate answers and I wish I had someone to talk with. The business card pops to my mind but proves useless as it only offers a name and an affiliation:
Sheffield Socialist Society
No email, phone number or even an address. Unbelievable.
Poem in italics: “Over the great city” by Edward Carpenter (1844-1929)
The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. (eds.) Nicholson & Lee. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1917.