I know someone is worth writing about when, like a hawk eyeing its prey, I become suddenly entranced. I study carefully their mannerisms and their features, listen to the way they talk, the inflections in their voices. I devour them with my fascination, but I do it quite covertly.
Last night, I was drinking beer with two friends at a bar called the Blarney in the Kreuzberg borough of Berlin. The European soccer championships were on, and we were sitting at a short mahogany table watching England against Italy. The first half of the game was more exciting than the second. Although there was no scoring in the game at all. Not until the penalty shots anyway. Italy, who were clearly the better team ended up winning the shoot-out 4-2. But before that, a little after the game started, an Englishman strolled into the bar. I’d seen him many times before, and he fascinates me every time. He’s about fifty-seven years old. He looks a little like Tom Jones, and when he came in he was wearing a backpack, a gray sleeveless shirt with sweatstains under his armpits, faded blue jeans with no belt holding them up. His jeans seemed to really accentuate his flat, square-shaped ass. His gray sleeveless shirt seemed to accentuate his arms, which were kind of flabby, but a little muscular still. My guess was that he’d just come from the gym on his bike.
I watched him get a beer from the bar and move to one of the back tables. He put his backpack under the table and sat down facing the TV. I was under the TV on one side, so every time I turned to the left I could see him. He had short, curlyish brownish hair that I think he must’ve dyed recently because there was no gray in it this time. His eyes were blue, sensuously lidded (bedroom eyes), his nose aquiline, cheeks somewhat collapsed with age. You could tell he was once quite handsome. Probably a ladies man. No, he was a ladies man, but his best days and his best conquests were behind him. He was still on the hunt though.
He was like an old baseball player in his twilight years. Still a professional, still able to hit a pinch-hit home run now and again. But his legs were stiff and his back and shoulders were stiff. And his reflexes weren’t what they used to be. And the clock was hammering away.
I stole a glance his way.
“Cheer up, Mike,” said my British friend Dave from across the table. I think he took my looking away from the game to mean the game was boring me. But I wasn’t bored at all. If fact, I felt pretty good. I had someone interesting to observe. My prey.
At halftime, half the people in the bar went outside for cigarettes. I went out there. The Tom Jones replica went out there. We both stood on the cobblestones under a little yellow streetlamp where the lip of the sidewalk comes up and started talking.
I’d met him several times before, but alas, he didn’t remember me. Probably because I wasn’t a woman. His prey. Some people only remember something if it titillates their senses.
We started about the game, about American football and baseball. He just didn’t get baseball, he said. The game was too slow, he said. It reminded him of cricket.
As for American football, there were just too many breaks. There was really only a few minutes of action in the game, he said, whereas soccer (or footie, as he called it) was non-stop action.
We talked then about travel in Europe and a few other things, but the whole time I got the impression his mind was elsewhere. He kind of had this languid expression on his face with his bedroom eyes kind of seeing something unknown and beyond, and I suspected he was either thinking about some woman in the bar (although there were very few there last night), or he was looking at me longing to be my age again (40), studying my features, my hair, noticing my height and build, wondering about the “action” I get, the “conquests” I’ve had, wondering if I was noticing he was still handsome.
In a word, his mind far away. And I doubted he’d remember our discussion later. And I was sure next time he saw me he wouldn’t remember me. Because I did nothing in the way of titillating his senses.
We stubbed out our cigarettes, nodded at each other, smiled, and headed back inside for the second half.
There was no scoring, as I said, and then the shoot out came.
England scored first. And then they scored again. I took a heavy pull from my beer on the second goal and glanced back and saw him cheering, his arms over his head so you could see his armpits and the two sweatstains were still there. And he was smiling. His bedroom eyes were smiling too.
But I was pretty sure his mind was elsewhere. And I was sure he wouldn’t remember any of this.