"Has it said something to make you angry?"
I ignored the question, already deciding the following conversation that would sprout from that statement would become backround noise to my loud, unsettling thoughts. When no answer from a second party came, I glanced up from my coffee, searching for the person who left the question in the air. My eyes fell into the kind, brown ones belonging to the gentleman sitting across from me. He had dark, wavy hair, healthy and youthful, and it seemed slightly out of place framing the start of crows feet around his eyes.His lips were curved into a small, uncertain smile, and I involuntarily returned the same, mirrored greeting. Then my brow furred.
"Did you just ask me something?" I glanced around to see if perhaps the man's attention was meant for someone else. Maybe he hadn't nodded at me at all, but rather to someone behind me and a sheer flood of embarrassment displayed as a flush on my cheek at the thought.
"I asked if your coffee has made you angry. You were staring at it like it called you fat," he stated. Then, as an afterthought, his face became quickly solemn as he added, "you don't. By the way. Look fat, I mean. I didn't mean to suggest that any sort of beverage would call you fat. Or non-beverage either." The apples of the man's cheeks had turned red. "Can we just pretend I never said anything?"
Finally, I thought. Someone more socially awkward than me.
"No, it's ok," I replied, but immediately realized that he hadn't apologized for anything and my response made no sense because what was ok exactly? "My coffee didn't call me fat," I clarified, which really wasn't a clarification of what was supposingly ok. "It's just been a crappy night," I finalized with a curt nod. Finally, something spoken that made sense.
The gentleman nodded like he understood. "Sorry to hear that," he said cordially. I nodded a thank you.
In the silence that followed, the man turned to his plate that had some kind of cake sitting on it, and he grinned to himself like enjoying a joke being told inside his head. It seemed our conversing was over, but now that I had interacted with this man I kept glancing over at him.Was he waiting for me to say something? Was I supposed to say something? What happens now, anyway? I've spoken to this person but now we were supposed to pretend that that twenty second conversation never happened? Was I supposed to ask this man about his day since I told him mine had been crappy and it was only polite to turn the conversation away from oneself?
Unsure on whether or not we were supposed to keep talking, I made a sound that combined the word "uhm" and a cough, that way if we weren't talking anymore atleast I could make it seem like I had a cold. A small wave of giddiness washed away some of the wall of doubt when the man immediately turned to me with a hopeful expression.
"Yes?" he asked. Ok, so I didn't have a cold. But now what? Why did I have his attention now? Was it necessary? Couldn't I just continue drinking my free coffee refills in silence until I bled espresso and the man left, probably down a path that never crossed mine again?
"Was our conversation over?" I asked. And the award for the most.stupid.question. goes to...
The gentleman smiled, his cheeks pressing his eyes up to a half-moon shape. The word "adorable" flashed in my mind at the sight.
"I wasn't sure myself," he admitted. "I wanted to ask you about your crappy night, but I thought it'd be too imposing. Then I thought about changing the subject, but since you had a crappy night I figured you didn't want to talk about anything else, and if you wanted to talk at all you would have elaborated on your crappy night since you brought it up. In that brief silence that followed I thought I would comment on your jacket, that it's a cute jacket, but I wasn't sure if you'd be up for hearing a compliment, because of your angry stare at the coffee. I figured, since the coffee didn't call you fat, that you were just upset and didn't want to hear a compliment from a stranger."
"Oh." I said.
The man looked at me, waiting. I said nothing. He said nothing.
"Once again we are greeted with an awkward silence either ending our conversing or encouraging it. A fork in the road," the gentleman said finally. He spoke with a soft voice and a shy smile, and I realized I was smiling too. "Which road to take?"
"The road less taken," I answered, because it seemed the right thing to respond with. Or the stupid thing to respond with.
The man nodded triumphantly, straightening up in his chair. "Excellent." He paused. The he frowned. "Which is the road less taken? Do we continue talking or not?"
"Hmm," I started. "Do strangers usually continue a conversation after learning that one has had a bad night?"
"Hmm," the man replied. He shrugged. "Normally people want to be left alone when they're in a bad mood, and don't usually talk about their problems to people they don't know. So, I think if we were to take the road less taken we should talk more."
"Agreed." I smiled. I didn't want to mention that people- i.e, bartenders and therapists- have made a living out of talking with strangers about their problems. It was how friendships were made. Talking about problems was probably the road all dirty, cracked and worn from the many footsteps it endured. But it was a road less traveled by me, and, meeting this man at midnight sitting alone in a coffeehouse it seemed it was the road less traveled for him too.
"You look like your cake just told you you won the lottery," I observed at the man's grin.