Meditations on a Street Corner

So I haven’t posted in forever. This would be due to my being hugely busy, and just too tired and dazed to really get down to writing. I am, however, currently putting to finishing touches to the plan for a novel I am hoping to finish by the end of summer. The first three thousand words are done, and some of this has appeared on here before.

But anyways. Here is a little something, inspired by my re-reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Cracking book if you have not read it yet. I wanted to achieve that sort of semi-detail that Kundera is great at. Giving us characters with a degree of depth. Speaking of which, this is not the same Franz as is in Being, I just picked that name because it sounds different. This is a first draft, I just wanted to get something out there and posted. As always, comments are greatly appreciated.

————–

Franz arrived early, just in case she had the same mind set. It was a early on a slightly chilly evening in spring. Not so cold that his own breathe was visible, but cold enough to put a shiver into you when there was a gust of wind. So there he stood, on a street corner in a okay part of town, flowers in one hand, the other hand in his pocket to keep it from the cool air.

He arrived early because he was old fashioned. He believed in chivalry and the like, held doors open for women he passed in corridors at work, gave compliments, but nothing that was overly flirtatious or sexual. Was never too forward on first dates, and only would place his hand on the leg of a female after they had kissed and he knew that he was not being too forward: that she wanted his hand to be there. This meant he never took any risks, really,  too scared of being seen the same way most men were. Perverts. Only after sex. Seeing women as objects, rather than subjects in themselves. This meant his love life was sparse, but the ones that liked him stuck about. He was a good catch, and a good guy.

It had been fifteen minutes since he arrived five minutes early at the street corner. During this time, he had been trying to find a pose, a means of standing up that made him look cool. He wanted to make an impression. This was informed by an upbringing of watching James Dean films and reading poetry by Byron. Not that he was the brooding, dark hero, more he liked to take shades from the sketch of the Byronic hero. Distant, cool and calm. Reserved, but not so much no-one bothered with him. More the quiet hero with lots to say. A lit cigarette sat on his bottom lip, and he casually breathed in smoke like it was nothing. Like it was the 1950s and smoking was still cool, which is when he was approached by a gentleman.

“Do you know what year it is?” he asked. This is the first thing that Franz registered about the man, before he even saw him. He was too busy staring at a window with an open curtain, behind which stood a lady, topless and painting something on a canvas to the side of the window. No body had noticed, and Franz did not mind the view. “Excuse me?” the stranger enquired again, abruptly bringing Franz back  to reality.

“Um…it’s two thousand and eleven. Why? Time traveller?”

“No, just remarking on you. You’re standing there, acting far cooler than you actually are. Smoking and leaning there like you’re some fucking beatnik.” Franz was a bit taken aback by this. Modern social protocol advised against actually talking to your fellow man, and as such he was not in the habit of experiencing strangers psychoanalysing him on the street.  “Trying to impress some girl?  For starters, you haven’t considered the very likely possibility that smoking won’t appeal to her.”

It was true. In his rush to appear cool, and as a result, gain her social approval, Franz had not considered his place in time and space to it’s full extent. People like James Dean look cool in black and white photos from fifty years ago, but times have a-changed, as some singer said from years back in a song that occasionally appears in movies.

“Shi…good point. Thanks..I think..” He reached for the white stick and went to throw it to the floor, before planning on stamping out the smoke.

“Ah, if you don’t mind…” and with a gesture of his hand, beckoning for the cigarette, the stranger took the cigarette from Franz’s limp hand, and before he could really say anything, the stranger was lost to the crowded street. Probably taking a tentative drag on Franz’s now long lost cigarette. He hoped the stranger choked on it, but soon remembered the point he had made. Quick, gum. Fumble one out of the packet in his pocket. Cover up the smell of poison. Think of excuses. Bonfire? Street fire? Passive smoke? Would have to go with that, if she even asked.

Who was she? This girl, this person he had made all these plans for in the back of his mind that he was yet to meet. A true blind date, not even a set up. In five minutes, he would be meeting, apparently, the girl of his dreams. Rumour had it she was funny, cute and had a soft spot for the sweet guys like him, according to the middleman. With this in mind, he was not even sure how he considered the bad boy smoking look would do him any favours.

A business man came to stand next him, a copy of The Times in his hand that he confidentially opened loudly next to Franz. Several moments of silence passed, making this interaction far past the threshold of non-awkward social interaction.

“Say, do you have the time at all?” he said in a smooth voice. The self-assured arrogant voice of a man in an expensive suit.

“Uh…about half past six?”

“About? How about?” the man replied in a tense voice. He had plans, places to be. Stress and high blood pressure. Franz was once again taken back by this interaction. There must be something in the air he told himself.

“Twenty five minutes past, to be exact” he replied with a slightly raised nose to indicate his indignation.

“Ah, thanks…uh..” he reached out his hand to Franz, to shake his, waiting for Franz to tell him his name”

“..Franz” he replied, taking the man’s hand in a reserved fashion.

“Franz, would you care to join me for a smoke?”

Quietly laughing at the irony of this situation, Franz politely declined, but the man lit one up himself anyways, and after taking a deep breathe asked what Franz was doing, waiting on a street corner. He replied he was waiting on a dinner date.

“Ah, and pray tell, what time are you meeting this lady? It is a lady right..? You never can tell these days” to which Franz awkwardly assured him that his date was in fact a woman. “Hmm..and you are meeting her soon…half six I am guessing? Seems like a nice round time. Well why are you here early?” and before Franz could explain, “You should be five minutes late to an appointment. Keep them waiting, keep them keen!”

“I’m not that kind of guy. Why not be early?”

“Because it shows you are too keen! If you show up early, you are just another guy trying to impress her with your chivalric values. If you show up late, you are the guy whose approval she will seek. She will try extra hard to impress you, trust me!”

Advice like this, Franz had heard before, and had taken with a pinch of salt. He would never try it though.

“See, I would never try these games on a girl that I actually like. This ‘be mean, keep them keen thing’. It’s a risk I wouldn’t want to take. Each to their own though”

“Ha, I suppose so” the businessman replied, stubbing out his cigarette on the building, “well, good luck, Franz” and with a firm handshake, he was gone.

Franz felt like a boy again, dipping his feet into a river. He remembered as child standing on the shore of a river near his grandparent’s house in the Lake District and watching as flotsam and jetsom washed up onto the shore, bits and pieces getting stuck in the pebbles there, before washing back off again into the current. He remembered a beautiful red boat passing once, with lucious sails and beautifully painted details. He remembered wanting to swim out and go off on many adventures, but he was too young and small to make it.

It was with this dreamy, vague stare into the distance that she found him.

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