When Andrzej met Andris, he knew that there was something mysterious about him. He inherited a knack for reading people from his grandmother, who was of Romani descent. His mother told him that his name meant “warrior” and raised him as such, always telling him to be cautious about people and to watch out for the ones who aim to deceive as she was deceived by his father. But enough about the meaning of his name.
The streets of the melancholic city were filled with all sorts of people, all wearing the same dull expressions. The sun was supposed to be out today, but as always the incompetent weatherman was wrong. Andrzej was walking to his favorite café while perusing today’s newspaper. More budget cuts for government jobs. Reduced pensions. Might as well give up. That’s all the newspapers printed these days. Maybe that’s why everyone looked despondent. He orders his usual café-au-lait and sits at his usual table. Half an hour before he has to be in the office.
Andrzej doesn’t come to this café just to read about depressing stories or to drink the sub-par coffee. He watches people and surmises their life stories. He noticed that his grandmother bequeathed this so-called gift when he was younger. He enjoyed guessing people. He enjoyed guessing their lives. He looked around to find a good subject. Nope, too boring. Nope…nope…nope…wait. He spotted another man. Above-average height, olive skin, hair as dark as the night, and eyes that pierce anyone who dares to look at them. All right, I’ll bite. Let’s see…Andrzej starts to analyze him, covertly sneaking glances at his different features and his body language. He’s not from around here. He looks like he has a past, possibly a dark one. An amateur could have gathered that much and he knew it. He moves to his eyes, the windows to the soul. He could feel his grandmother in his blood and in his own eyes. He moved here to start a new life. A history of violence drove him here. Oh, shit! The subject made eye contact with Andrzej. Normally, people look away and act like nothing happened in this situation, but to his surprise, the subject rose from his chair and approached Andrzej, “Can I help you with something?” He had a cold, steely voice. Andrzej could see more features. The subject isn’t here to threaten, he wants to talk.
“Don’t play me a fool. I saw you looking.”
“Don’t be ashamed of it. May I sit?”
The subject took a seat without Andrzej’s permission. He was analyzing him now; those piercing eyes were measuring him up to make sure that he wasn’t a threat. “Nice day,” Andrzej ventured.
“Why do you lie?”
Wow. This guy’s good. “Just trying to make small-talk”
“Something tells me that you don’t have very much interaction with people here. You come here to watch them.”
A look of blank shock flashed across Andrzej’s face and the subject saw. “I’m right again, aren’t I?”
“So, why do you do it?”
“I’ve always done it. My mother told me that I get it from my grandmother.”
“Ah, I see. Well, I’m Andris. Tell me, what could you tell about me just from looking?”
“Well, you’re not from around here”
“No shit. A five-year-old could’ve guessed as much. Come on, be honest. Tell me everything.”
Andrzej could see in those daggered emeralds that he was serious. “Well, you moved because you needed a fresh start. I’m guessing a history of violence or abuse?”
It was Andris’ turn to be surprised. “Wow. I’m impressed. What’s your name?”
“Andrzej. It’s Romani for—“
“—for warrior or man. I know. My name means the same thing, only it’s Hungarian. That’s where I’m from, actually. I was born in Debrecen and moved to Budapest when I was five.”
Andrzej looked down at his watch and saw that he was almost late for work. “I really wish we could continue this conversation, but I am due in at work in five minutes.”
“I see,” Andrzej could see that Andris was genuinely intrigued by their conversation. He couldn’t deny that he wasn’t as well.
“You know what? Fuck it. I haven’t had a day off in months. I’ll take a personal day.”
Andris looked and him quizzically, and then smiled. It seemed as if his cold outer shell had melted. Andrzej could see that his eyes became a soft and warm hazel. He had never met anyone as intriguing as Andris. “Good.” His voice was cold, but his body language relaxed. Andrzej called the secretary, informed her of a supposed family emergency, and proceeded to continue with the intriguing conversation.
“Well, seeing as I have the whole day to waste let’s continue. Why did you move here?”
Andris’ expression hardened instantaneously. His eyes flashed bright green, “I normally wouldn’t want to talk about it, but since we’re being honest here I had a boyfriend who used me as a punching bag.”
Andrzej was taken aback for a moment. Remorse, unending and raw, traversed to his eyes. “I am so sorry.” He felt guilty about coming off as haughty and arrogant. Andris saw the rue in his eyes.
“Don’t feel sorry for me and don’t feel bad about coming off as pompous. It’s in the past and my demeanor wasn’t inviting.”
“I was abused too. He…”Andrzej found it difficult to bring up the past again. All of those nights of insomnia and terror took its toll on his memory and sanity. It was as if he had a disgusting scar that he could only see. “My ex did the same to me. He beat me within an inch of my life. The last blow he delivered I saw my grandmother. Not in real life, mind you, but it was a flash. She said that I am a warrior. I needed to pick myself up, walk out that door and never look back. All in a flash. When he was in a drunken stupor, I packed my bags, took all of his money, threw his keys out the window and I never looked back. That’s why I moved here. New city, new home, new life.”
Andris’ eyes burned hazel again. Andrzej could see that he had a similar story. He didn’t want to know all of the details, so he didn’t press him for more. Andris could see the scar, too. He understood that it’ll never go away. It’ll always be there to remind him of his past. But with Andris, Andrzej could learn to live with this scar, this morbid aspect of him. “Let’s go.”
“I don’t know. Wherever we want to go.”
Andrzej took Andris’ hand and exited the shabby café. Raindrops started to fall thick and fast. “What a beautiful day.”