Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Four
Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued
Marlee chose the opposite side of the street for her return trip down Haight Street. She saw chilly tourists renting inline skates and bicycles for a high-speed zip through the Park. She resisted the barker’s pitch, from a chubby girl dressed in black, to step into “Cold Steel” for a piercing of the soft tissue of her choice. The list of possible sites made Marlee feel very “Ohio.”
“It must be a California thing,” she thought.
Seeing the bounteous display of produce at the Haight Street Grocer for the second time, she couldn’t resist the huge Navel oranges or the pencil thin fresh asparagus. It would be perfect with her Eggs Benedict for Sunday’s meal with Dennis Thayer. After all, she did promise him a brunch.
Even though she was just a block from home, she decided to stop for a cool drink. She didn’t
want this excursion to end.
“The People’s Cafe”, near the corner at Masonic Street, was large and airy, with tall sliding windows that made it an inviting oasis and a prime location for idle time people watching.
Marlee looked over the large menu board mounted high on the wall behind the sparkling display case that teemed with decadent pastries.
The cafe was only half full this time of day. The tables were populated mainly with locals, sipping coffee and chatting. Off in the far corner sat one bearded neighborhood denizen, madly scribbling another novel that no one would ever read. It was almost the cliché of a San Francisco Coffee House.
“And what can I get for you today?”
Marlee lowered her gaze from the menu and into a pair of gentle gray eyes that sparkled like dusty diamonds.
“What would you like?”
“Oh, something cool and refreshing, I think.”
He smiled and his words came to her ears with an almost lyric quality wrapped in a warm baritone.
“Ah, there’s nothing better after a morning in the cosmic heat of The Haight.”
Small lines formed at the corners of his eyes. His lashes made her think of a dozing cat. She noticed a small cleft in his chin and wondered if it made it hard for him to shave in the morning.
“I’ll tell you what, you have a seat and I’ll bring you something that will cool the fire on your brow and fuel the passion in your heart.”
She found a table by the window, but instead of watching the passing parade she found herself staring at the barista with the beautiful eyes.
“He is delicious, isn’t he?”
“Excuse me?” said Marlee. The interrupting voice broke her trance. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”
Sitting at a nearby table was a woman who had been pretty ten years ago.
“Luco – He’s gorgeous, isn’t he? But put your tongue back in your mouth, Dearie. He may flirt with you and whisper slivers of his poetry in your ear, but he’s not a man for the long haul. Trust me. I know.”
“I’m sorry, but what are you talking about?” People in Cleveland didn’t just talk to strangers like this.
“She’s saying that she’s upset because I never asked her to spend a month making love on the beach in Baja. Am I right, Marjorie?” The barista wiggled a finger in reprimand as he smiled tenderly at the woman. She deflated under his gaze. Obviously, she still carried around a long-term, and unextinguished, torch.
Marlee looked up into the smooth face of the man with the gigawatt smile. He had a large pastel blue cup and saucer in his hand.
“May I join you for a moment? I made this for you. It’s my personal favorite – espresso, steamed milk with a shot of amaretto, and a single clove, for luck.”
He didn’t wait for her answer as he slid into the empty chair across the table from Marlee.
This warm spot of male light was Luco Reyes, a 15th generation Californian. His family had come to the New World with the first wave of Spanish explorers. He reflected the lineage of the Grandees along with the gifts of other visitors to the Pacific coast, including the Imperial Russian Dynasty.
Just shy of six feet tall, he wore his jet-black hair cut short for convenience. He was not a man who fussed over his looks. He was the man who was there in the mirror the first thing in the morning.
His face was lightly tanned; a healthy glow laid on a complexion the color of tea with just a touch or two of cream.
Luco Reyes kept himself physically fit, but not like a 7-day-a-week gym jockey. Underneath his chambray shirt he had the spring-loaded muscularity of a Middleweight boxer. His body answered with the fast reflexes and easy confidence that didn’t require “muscle shirts” to advertise their presence.
He had the quick wit and romantic heart of the poet that he was. He wrote at night in his flat on Stanyan Street above the bicycle shop. From his windows he had a view of the entrance to Golden Gate Park and the playground and carousel beyond. His poems were long and dynamic, with sensuous imagery and a desperate sadness.
At the cafe he flirted shamelessly and fell in lust hourly, but rarely let it go further than a wink, a smile and the occasional nibble on a very willing earlobe.
As Marlee had just discovered and the woman in the corner could not let loose of: one simple flex of his shoulders or a smiling moment in his focus and you knew that this was a man who could make your eyes roll back in your head and let you forget to go home and feed the cat.
“I hope you like it.”
“Oh, I’m sure that I will. It smells wonderful. Thank you.”
“Please, call me Luco and welcome to the neighborhood. I hope you stay here a long time.”
“How did you know that I’m new here? Does Cleveland show that readily?”
“Not really, but tourists don’t buy asparagus for souvenirs and I’ve never seen you in here before. I would remember you.”
Marlee took a sip of the coffee. It was delicious with an exotic overtone that invigorated her and yet relaxed the tight muscles in her neck. It was her new favorite thing in San Francisco.
Luco looked back at the counter area. Customers were beginning to get impatient.
“I have to get back to work, but stay and enjoy the coffee, my treat.” He started to get up. He smelled of cinnamon.
“Thank you very much…Luco.”
“For you…always, my pale beauty.” He slipped away from the table leaving Marlee to wonder if the warm glow she was feeling was from the shot of amaretto or from the new man who had obviously just entered her life.
“I warned you, Dearie. He’s inside you now. You’re hooked. You didn’t notice that he never asked you for your name, did you? He never will.”
Marlee tuned out the hopelessly desperate woman in the corner. She sipped her coffee and forced herself to look at the strangers passing by outside the open window.