His words didn’t quite reach my ears amidst the bustle, but I knew what he meant to say. College education hadn’t been his best experience. Mine hadn’t been either, I wanted to tell him. But he had moved on to tell the story of this one time when he almost ran over a cat and then three days later ended up finding her the perfect home. It was important to him that the owner be a religious cat lover lest she would end up running away and getting run over by someone else’s car. I smiled but I wasn’t sure I understood. A perfect home, surely such a thing didn’t exist.

“What about you?” He asked.

My ears propped up like a vigilante dog’s. I wasn’t spacing out, I was listening. Quite intently at that, and perhaps I was listening a little too intently, I completely forgot I was part of the conversation.

“I love cats, yeah.” I did, too but I was sure I hadn’t answered his question.

The sky was a perfect blue, the kind that accentuated all surrounding noise. The chirping birds, the clack of stilettos against the pavement, and the crescendo of the hissing steam from the restaurant nearby. We both sat staring at a mother lugging two of her infants in the park across the street. The baby on her back cried, perhaps from the heat, and the girl tiptoed at her side with a cotton candy in her hand.

We both waited for our drinks. Camomile tea, mine. Coffee, black, his. I was in love with the afternoon, and I wondered quite earnestly whether he did too. Something about its ease, its effortlessness made me yearn for amazing things.

By the time our drinks arrived, we were engaged in a heated exchange about music. He divulged that, despite his rugged appearance, he was quite the sensitive guy. I found that to be confusing, to say the least. Both, the rugged appearance that apparently was lost on me and the sensitivity that was veiled under a tough exterior was what I figured he had meant. I did not let the confusion show as he elaborated that music made him cry like a little boy. I chuckled at the seeming revelation. We both agreed that music was transcendental, capable of transporting us to better places than here and now. He complimented my smile. I felt the heat rising in my cheeks as I thanked him. In the moment of silence that followed, I imagined us together. Happy.

Across the street, the mother with the kids crossed a busy road and disappeared into a narrow alley.

“I’m in love with this city,” he told me in his throaty voice which I had begun to love. He talked about the beautiful ride home by the sea from his office downtown, about the unassuming people here, about the city’s hospitality. I asked him if he lived with his family, he didn’t. Then he explained how he rarely missed them thanks to this place. We asked for the bill. I insisted we share the expense, but he wouldn’t have it so I surrendered and let him pay.

“Just one more of those smiles would be worth it.”

My face flushed at the remark and a reflexive smile replaced it. He seemed pleased.

We hugged and parted ways and on the car ride home, I wondered when we would meet again.

Stories. Sometimes of words, sometimes of people.

Stories. Sometimes of words, sometimes of people.