Norton was enervated. He had been in desperate need of a caffeinated pick-me-up to reinvigorate any will he had to persist in meeting the deadline for composing the music he was less than invested in for some conspiracy theory special for the BBC that was probably not a conspiracy theory at all. Everyone’s after us all the time–stalking, lurking in some technological way–there’s no denying that. He didn’t want to wait for Reginald to make the macchiato today, didn’t have the patience. He knew there was a long line of customers in front of him, varying in degrees of devotion from the casual passerby to the staunch regular. At the end of the bar was Sloan, who he often inwardly remarked was rather oblivious to all around her, so engrossed was she in whatever internet k-hole or writing endeavor consumed her. He wanted to talk to her, but got the sense that, whenever he did, she was irritated. Sloan, for her part, was no good at multitasking, at focusing on two things at once. That’s why she came to the coffee shop: to avoid the distractions of her apartment.
It was, accordingly, that she could find little time to engage in what many New Yorkers would deem idle chat. Regardless, Norton persisted, explaining to her that he used to be the kid in class that the teacher had to separate from everyone else (and, to add to his character background, the kid that used to carry pet mice in his pockets) because he was so chatty. She never could figure out those of a verbose nature, she herself being so parsimonious with words. She once believed that those who talked with such frequency rarely said much of anything at all, but in Norton’s case, she believed it stemmed from spending large blocks of time alone in his apartment before venturing out into the world again and realizing how little he had communicated with another being during this interim period of creative productivity.
Most afternoons when Norton came into the coffee shop, he was patient about waiting for Reginald, even forgiving him when he forgot to make the macchiato altogether. That was simply Reginald’s way, a Scotsman with a whisky habit that made him prone toward forgetfulness. It usually rendered Reginald lovable, Norton himself being of the Scottish bent–here on an artist’s work visa that made him feel an uncomfortable amount of pressure about being an “artist”–could understand a love of whisky. Then again, he hadn’t been able to hold a drink without getting sick since his twenties, as he had begun his alcoholic tendencies in his early teens and therefore allowed his tolerance to plateau too early, reaching the point of full-fledged liquor abstinence at this point in his early thirties.
Sloan unearthed this fact about him after expressing her own love of Irish coffee–or Scotch coffee, as Reginald insisted it should be called when he poured his strongest private reserve of Lagavulin 12 Year Old into her coffee cup. For this, she could never accuse Reginald of any wrong-doing in his customer service skills or lack of expediency. It was after a few sips on this day of the macchiato that wouldn’t come that Sloan at last loosened up a bit, let down her guard long enough to detach her head from the computer and truly listen to Norton.
Apparently, as Sloan soon found out, Norton wanted to engage in one of the most common white boy rites of passage in existence: going to India to find spiritual, emotional and physical clarity. He was weary of the American way, how the country with “everything” seemed to offer absolutely nothing other than voids upon voids where human souls ought to be. She nodded in agreement, but also secretly held contempt for this all too common expression on the part of European and American men alike, always searching, searching for answers that did not lie in their external surroundings but in their internal ability to take the good with the bad–geography be damned.
Though she didn’t want to interrupt him, she was suddenly hyper-aware of the clock on the wall and needing to get to the mailbox on time to send out the renewal for her driver’s license, which she had spent the better part of the morning on the phone about with different factions within the DMV to confirm that she could, in fact, simply mail out the renewal form with a check that would keep the bureaucracy at bay for another five years. When she told Norton of her errand, he didn’t believe her, so she invited him to come along with her to her apartment to prove it. For she needed to rustle up one of the last checks in her checkbook to send out with the paper she had printed and filled out.
It was an intimate thing, taking someone back to your apartment, and she hadn’t exactly chatted the tableau of it up to him, not so jokingly comparing her room to one of the sets from Trainspotting, what with the mattress on the floor and the lack of organization that made moving around with any sort of ease impossible.
In spite of this, she took him back there. And it was just her luck to have stocked her purse chock full of tampons of the o.b. variety, which meant they looked rather like bullets–pussy bullets, she called them. It was in the same pocket of her bag as her keys, so when she fished them out, a slew of tampons burst forth to the surface, one of them toppling down to land on the step nearest to them. “I’m on the rag, all right?” she explained, evidently constantly feeling the need to give in to the collective female guilt over being a woman and having a vag that bled. But he didn’t seem overly affected, which probably meant that he must have grown up with sisters.
So, after she made the spectacle over her projectile tampon and let them in, he sat in the living room while she went to unbury her checkbook, returning to the area he had made himself at home in with her back to him as he talked some more and she, once again, half-listened while writing the address on the envelope and deciding to just slap a lot of forever stamps on the front to ensure its first class arrival. She then said she had to leave, so Norton followed her back downstairs, watching her pick up the erstwhile orphaned tampon and toss it back into her bag.
She was so scattered, so frantic, he thought to himself. Really, quite a mess. But she made him smile, and you can’t say fairer than that of a person. They went their separate ways after the mailbox, she to get to the city in time to meet a friend to see a film and he to meander back to Reginald’s.
Alas, when he returned to the coffee shop, Reginald still hadn’t made him the macchiato.