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Sorry for the poor quality of the following post.  My heart just isn’t in the writing tonight, I’m afraid.  It’s been a rough day, so I want nothing more than to relax with a good book and a Corona to keep me company.

But I must keep my writing schedule, and so I present the following story.  There will likely be no follow-up to it, as the date wasn’t nearly as exciting as I had hoped, but this encounter has been on my mind for a while now.  I’ll do my best to have something more interesting up Friday.


I sit at an individually-sized plastic table outside a small university coffee shop, pounding out line after line on my laptop.  No more than three feet away are dozens of passers-by, pedestrians meandering toward God knows where, conversing in a language I can’t hope to comprehend and won’t bother trying.  I’ve come to interpret it as white noise, a meaningless drone that mingles with the sounds of engines and car horns.  Not the ideal work space, but given that my hotel’s internet is shoddy at best, it’s more convenient to work someplace near the university where I can get a wi-fi signal.  Plus I’ve never had coffee like this.

I pause and take a long, slow sip of the hot beverage.  The spreading warmth makes my torso sweat more than usual.  My colleagues hadn’t exaggerated the climate of southeast Asia–a combination of heat and humidity so stifling that it makes it difficult to breathe at times for those of us unaccustomed to such extremes.  Sure, it gets hot back home, hotter than this, in fact.  But never does the air feel this close, this… thick.  And the hot coffee isn’t doing much to alleviate my discomfort.  But it has a stronger, more pleasing flavor than I’ve ever experienced, so I swallow my discomfort along with the bitter satisfaction that can only be found at the bottom of a good cup of joe.

“Excuse me?”

When all you are accustomed to hearing is the foreign language white noise, English really stands out.  So much so, in fact, that I am slightly startled.  I look up from my laptop, equally startled and annoyed at the unexpected interruption.  The annoyance quickly passes, however, when I take in the speaker.  A young East Asian woman in business-casual attire: white blouse, blue-black jacket, matching pants, and black heeled dress shoes.  Her hair is pulled back into a ponytail, which gives prominence to her rounded facial features and large almond eyes, and she smells vaguely of frankincense.  She smiles politely and holds her hands in a common gesture of greeting and what I interpret as supplication.

I put on my most charming smile and stand, returning the gesture and greeting her in what I’m sure is a true bastardization of her language.  She doesn’t comment, but merely repeats the gesture with more intensity.  It’s almost like fighting to see who can be more gracious.  I let her win.

“Can I help you with something?” I ask.

She recovers and stands a bit taller.  “Yes.  I want to tell you that I heard your lecture yesterday at university.”  Her English is gramatically sound, but her accent is strong, making it tricky to follow her.  “I saw you across the street and wanted to thank you.”

I laugh and look down at myself, pointedly making a show of examining my baggy cargo shorts, thin polo shirt, and sandals.  “I don’t know how you recognized me out of my professional attire and sans glasses, but I certainly appreciate you coming over to thank me.  It’s really nice to know my work isn’t quite as boring as I suspect.”

She laughs and shakes her head.  “No, no, not at all!  It was very interesting!”  I nod my thanks again, which induces another supplicating gesture from her.  “In fact, I was hoping you might want to meet with me later to talk about my work and some collaboration ideas over drinks.”

My spidey sense is tingling.

“Sure, of course.  When were you hoping to meet?”

“Tomorrow night, if that is good for you.”  She pulls a notebook from her pocket, scrawls a few lines, and rips out the page.  “Here is my phone number.  Call me tomorrow around 6:00?”

I take the page and check her handwriting.  Written across the top, in both the flowing alphasyllabaric of her region and in English, is her name–Minh.

“Minh,” I say experimentally.  “What a lovely name.”  I can see her cheeks redden as she laughs and repeats the gesture.  I grin and return it.  “I’ll call you tomorrow night.”

“Thank you,” Minh says.  She smiles and gives me a small wave as she turns on her heel, her ponytail whipping after her.  She walks away with the same professional manner as most women in the region, with no hint of sexuality whatsoever.  I am almost disappointed, but I see her cast a glance over her shoulder, toward me, and I detect the faint hint of a nervously self-satisfied smile.  She narrowly avoids eye contact and disappears into the pedestrian sea.

I return to my laptop, taking a moment to consider the note still clutched in my hand.  I pocket it and quickly type out an e-mail to Shelley.

–Guess who has a work date with a sexy woman tomorrow!!

A moment passes before I get her response.

–Every work date is sexy when you’re with me.

“Smartass,” I mutter, but I can’t help but laugh.  The expressions of the older couple beside me suggests they think I’m insane.  I raise my mug to them and take another sip of my still hot coffee.



  1. Bi – This was exquisitely written. I’ve just finished a section of my Fiction workshop on detail and gesture and you used them both beautifully within this piece.

    Believe it or not, I’ve pimped you (and on other blog) out to a classmate. They are writing a piece on a serial cheater and a sexual addict and they got it SO WRONG!!! It was insulting to the main character. I put your pieces on the “long con” as well as some of your other pieces out as examples of both good writing and the mind of a conflicted cheater and a gave them Imperfect’s blog on sexual addiction. They were trying to achieve someone who actually loved his wife, but cheated anyway and all they came away with was douchebag. I could barely get through the whining.

    You, my dear, truly underestimate your writing ability.

    All the best…

    • Gillian, I am positively flattered. If there were a blushing emoticon, I would include it here.

      You’re more than welcome to show my work to whomever you deem appropriate. If I am able to help anyone learn something through this blog–philosophically, morally, gramatically, structurally, or any other -ally you can imagine–then I will have contributed positively. Not to mention that it’s always nice to get my work out there a bit more. I may be anonymous, but as I’ve said so many times, it’s gratifying to earn new readers.

      Just be sure to tear them a new one if you catch them plagiarizing me. ^_^

        • Gillian Colbert
        • Posted March 21, 2012 at 12:37 am
        • Permalink

        LOL! Will do 😉

  2. Ooh, shame there won’t be a follow up – but if you say it wasn’t that exciting…
    Fab writing for one who wasn’t in the mood for it!!!

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