Cold Man

He’s cold in every sense of the word, even to the touch. I bumped into him once, and I was shocked at the chill he gave me.

I don’t know where he’s from. He hangs out in coffee shops where he just sits, sipping. He doesn’t read, doesn’t people watch. If he has a digital device I’ve never seen it. Smile? Not him.

I’m an adventurous woman, so I went to his table and asked, “Mind if I sit here?” Without waiting for an answer (and there was none), I sat.

I looked at him closely while he stared at nothing. Grey eyes, full head of brown wavy hair brushed back, white teeth. He wore a checked shirt, jeans and featureless tan shoes. No clues about the man, nothing substantial to start a conversation about.

“Hey, how’s it going?” I asked breezily. “Like it black?” I said, gesturing at his coffee, which had neither sugar nor milk.

He looked at me calmly, but I think also slightly dazed. He may have been momentarily confused because I myself am black. Maybe he thought I was trying to pick him up. Maybe I was.

I sipped my cappuccino and waited. He paused and said slowly, deliberately, “Fine, I’m fine.” Nothing more.

I smiled broadly, pointed toward myself and said, “Wonderful! How about you? How are you? I, too, am fine!”

The cold man frowned and held out his hand. “I’m Bertram. Pleased to meet you,” he said evenly. We shook hands politely and I got that chill again.

“Mutual,” I said. “What is it that you do, Bertram?”

“I sip coffee,” he answered.

“Nothing stronger?”

“It’s strong coffee,” he said between sips.

This wasn’t going to be easy. We sat silently for a couple of minutes.

“Hobbies? Pets?” I asked getting no answer. I pulled out my cell phone. I showed him a series of photos. “This is my cat, Sadie. She’s a tabby. Do you like cats?”

“Not really,” the cold man finally volunteered.

“That’s a shame because I have her with me. I bet she likes you.”

I pulled Sadie out of my large tote bag. Sadie climbed onto the cold man’s lap and hissed. I’d never seen Sadie hiss before.

“Sadie! You stop that!” I ordered.

But she ignored me, arched her back, hissed again and then extended her claws. She furiously scratched the cold man’s hand until it began to bleed.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m so sorry!”

“I have to go now,” said the cold man flatly. He dashed out.

I looked down where the cold man’s blood had stained a napkin. The stain was green.