“Hey! Action-Jackson!” Karl jingled some change in his hand. “I’m buying.”
Jackson looked at him like he was speaking Martian. Karl clarified: “Coffee?”
“Black,” Jackson answered. Not “thanks” or “I’ll get you next time”. Complete ballsack.
Karl fed some coins into the machine. “Saurav?” Saurav smiled and waved him off. “No. Thank you very much.” Better. Karl got himself a regular.
Jackson grabbed a table in the middle of the caf so he could see the hockey highlights on the muted TV. Saurav sat down across from him, back straight, palms facing down on the table like he’d been invited to some Barbie tea party and was waiting for the scones to arrive.
Karl didn’t usually do coffee with new guys – and in the service industry, there were always new guys – but today he needed something, anything, to keep his mind off his dick problems. He would be bored by anything a guy wearing an ironed polo shirt would have to tell him but Jackson was the guy who’d initially peaked Karl’s curiosity. Maybe it was the Cookie Monster T-shirt but from across the call centre he seemed okay.
Karl set the coffees down on the table and grabbed a seat.
Jackson nodded towards the TV, assuming Karl had been watching the highlights from the vending machine. “I’ve had it with these guys. This year, I mean it.”
Everybody in the call centre always started the conversation with hockey. The Leafs were out of the playoffs and once again, everybody was surprised. The other problem with hockey was that it made Karl think about pucks. Puck rhymed with fuck which brought him right back to his dick problems. He had to change the topic.
“Either of you guys into soccer?”
Saurav shook his head.
Jackson said: “I can’t get my head wrapped around it. The running and the long socks.” He shrugged, like he didn’t need to explain more.
“Hockey players wear long socks,” Karl remarked.
“Not the same,” Jackson answered. How it was different, he did not volunteer.
Jackson carefully peeled the brown lid off his cup and sipped a little coffee. He made a face and set down the cup. “I’m sorry dude. I can’t drink this.”
“Really? Mine’s okay.”
“Nah, I thought I could drink it black but this tastes like shit. I need cream and sugar. Saurav, you want it? “
Saurav shook his head.
Karl was a little pissed. “Why didn’t you just get what you wanted in the first place?”
“This.” Jackson said, slapping his gut right in the cookie monster.
“The girls don’t like his belly,” Saurav said, like someone had needed to clarify what Jackson had just clarified.
“Yeah. It’s got to go.” Jackson rubbed his stomach with a little sadness as though it was a hard decision to give up his beer baby.
“I didn’t think fat girls were picky,” said Karl. It had been meant more as a casual observation but Jackson puffed up right away and looked positively indignant.
“I never said I liked fat girls. I like big asses.”
“It’s not the same thing. Absolutely not.”
Karl wasn’t ready to let it go, seeing as he was a bit of a connoisseur. “Jackson: A girl with a fat ass is a fat girl. If she had just fat legs or fat arms and the rest of her was skinny, you’d call her fat.”
Saurav was smiling like he knew what everyone was talking about. “Personally,” he said, “I think beggars can’t be choosers.” He said it rather pleasantly but Jackson snapped, like it was a personal blow to his honour. For a guy wearing a Cookie Monster T-shirt, he had remarkably very little sense of humour.
“I don’t beg. Okay? I choose.”
“From where I’m sitting,” Karl said, “it looks like you choose cream and sugar over ass every time.” Jackson hadn’t seen it coming.
“Fuck you,” he growled.
Whatever. The situation had been diffused.
Just then, the rapid fire clicking of stilettos off the lunch room focused everyone’s attention like a conductor’s baton hitting a music stand.
She came around the corner. Turquoise sandals with gold hardware, bare sun-kissed legs, a thick belt cinched over a tiny toned tummy, a tailored white shirt and a lot of beautiful crazy red hair casually swept up in a casual way she’d probably spent a lot of time putting together. She avoided eye contact but the second her back was to them, Karl decided he was going to keep an eye on her pencil skirt as long as it was in front of him and moving.
Which is when Saurav shouted “Julie!” in a bright, clear girl voice.
Karl caught Jackson’s expression which was as surprised as he felt.
Saurav was too busy smiling like an asshole to notice their exchange. He jumped to his feet. “Please,” he said, indicating his chair, “Would you like to join us?”
Julie looked from Saurav to Karl and back. “I – I can’t. I have a meeting.”
Saurav smiled. “Next time.” Julie nodded and left.
Saurav turned to his table mates, his eyes bright and shiny. “She is very nice. We have gone out two times. To dinner.”
“Bullshit.” “You’re full of it.”
“No, no. I assure you I am not. She is studying economics. She says I’m a good catch.” Saurav giggled, delighted.
“What are you? New? She’s not interested in you. No way.”
“And yet, we are going out for dinner next week-end.”
Karl took over. “Saurav, that girl is using you to get dinner!”
“No.” Saurav said, wagging his finger. “You don’t know.”
Even when he disagreed, Saurav smiled. He was starting to grow on Karl. “Okay. So maybe’s she totally innocent. Then, she’s got a tapeworm and it’s using you to get dinner. ”
“You know what? Follow your heart, man… Follow your heart.”
It had come out of nowhere. Karl looked at Jackson, shocked as all hell. Jackson’s voice was choked with emotion, his face, pinched, like he was on the edge of tears. There was probably some long-winded story about some girl he should have never broken up behind it all.
Karl resisted the urge to gag and pushed away from the table. Jackson looked at him with surprise.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m ‘following my heart’ back to work.”
Karl tossed his coffee cup into the garbage can and never looked back. If there’s something he could not abide, it was a bunch of guys, sitting around, feeling things.
NEXT WEEK Karl’s dick problems, exposed.