Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Just before my trip to Austin, I'm writing in a Starbucks and see this...

In a Starbucks, in a bank lobby, where I go because it is so quiet, and so isolated on this side of the glass of the café - yet it is still the café - a very intense man takes up residence at one of the tables in the lobby. He has a large duffel bag of unknown contents, and a grocery bag that he immediately begins to dig through. He pulls out a large quart of ice cream. he opens it carefully. He fumbles in his pocket for a spoon he carries in some kind of swiss army knife. he starts at the top of the ice cream – I can see now that it is orange-flavored – and he just starts eating. I mean, this is really happening. He is over there in pressed slacks and a shirt with a collar and a shiny watch. His body language looks like he is running from the law. Like any minute now his mother will reach over his shoulder and smack the spoon away, and take his ice cream.

He’s eating it by the shovel-load. He’s eating it frantically. He downs huge spoonfuls in three bites. His jewelry flashes in my eye in the slanting light from the sunroofs, and he devours the ice cream.

This isn’t some little pint-sized ice cream tub. This is at least a quart. He stops to read a paper, to adjust the newspaper in front of him. He breathes heavily. He is not a small man, and he moves with the darting intensity of a large man with a mouth full of frozen dairy product that never has time to congeal in body heat before a painful swallow. He groans in pain, as his throat recovers, and he reads the newspaper between frantic, dizzying competitive devouring of the ice cream.

He attacks the ice cream again. Eight giant spoonfuls gone as quickly as shots of whiskey.

He is in the café area of a Starbucks that spills over into a bank lobby, in a building owned by the bank. And, it is a quiet place, where people go for the quiet. And, he eats ice cream.

In the time it has taken me to write this, he has gotten at least half of the way through his ice cream. He hasn’t really gotten very far in his newspaper.

When he’s nearly finished he leaps to his feet over the ice cream. He struggles with it, wrestles with it. He has to stop and breathe with his arms out at his side between furious bouts of devourment. He’s almost finished. He breathes heavily with the weight of the food. He closes the empty carton. With a look of defeat on his face, he staggers to the trashcan outside. He has a look of genuine sadness on his face, as if this compulsion was something painful. Then, he paces the lobby. He paces the lobby. He picks up his belongings. He walks out the door, with a look of genuine fear on his face.

It's 9:15 in the morning, and ice cream has been eaten. Much ice cream has been eaten.

This happened today. This happened right now, today.

Right. I'm off to ArmadilloCon right now. Right now.

Seeya soon, in Austin, party people!

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