Every Wednesday I come to a patisserie which my aunt first took me to when I was a little girl. It's a sort of combination patisserie and a café. In the window you can see the beautiful cakes for every occasion; weddings, birthdays, for when you just feel like spoiling yourself. I've seen it change over the years. I remember when they had a payphone in the corner, where now they have wi-fi access for their customers. I like the way the traditional and the modern politely accept each other's presence but ignore each other, both with their roles to play.

I sit there reading. Every week when I come here, I bring a different book. I read a few chapters and then start another one. I don't remember the last time I actually finished a book. I just like being here, its part of my history – my heritage even. My aunt's long since passed away but, I come here and it reminds me of her.

Today, however, was different, I decided that today I was going to finish a book. I don't know why I decided on today. I just did. I had been in the café for about three hours reading 'Canterbury Tales'. Once I set my mind to something, I am determined to see it through.

It was pretty busy this Wednesday, probably new people discovering the delights. Maybe, but I don't know.

It was funny, I was finally getting into it, actually making progress, when all I could hear was "Pen, pen, does anyone have a pen?" A man with an accent was standing at the counter. Definitely wasn't from London. He looked like rice pudding, all creamy and white. Everyone ignored him. The girl at the counter looked exasperated. "Are you sure you don't know your pin? No one signs for things nowadays." she said.

"We sign for things where I'm from. I need this cake. It's for my daughter's birthday".

The counter girl looked at him blankly, cowlike in her zen emptyness.
He pulled out his cellphone and dialed.

I went back to reading my book, feeling my nose starting to drip. A cold coming on. My concentration was throughly scattered. I'd been trying to fight it for days. Rummaging through my bag for a tissue, I wondered at why I carried so much rubbish around with me. Like emotional baggage I guess. Instead of a tissue, my fingers tickled a pen – which was odd, as I never write anything down. I usually take a phone picture of things I need to remember. Pens are so... last century.

My attention for the book was now permanently lost. I noticed that the man was still there on the phone. It sounded like he was having an argument, and I watched him getting a bit red in the face. I handed the girl my pen silently and went back to my table, unnoticed by the Cake man.

"A pen, Sir" the counter girl said, bored.

"Could you sign now please?" She sounded exasperated now. A subtle shift.

I forced focus on the book. The man likely signed for the cake and left. When I looked up, he was gone. Determined, I scoped in on the 'Tales', making a pilgrimage in my head.

A few weeks later, I was at my patisserie enjoying my cup of Orange Pekoe (yes, how pedestrian) – and reading 'Much a do about nothing'. I had finished 'Canterbury Tales' earlier in the week and was hoping to plow through another classic. I was smiling to myself – I really did like reading. The Olde English was soothing, yet challenging.

"I took your pen" he said.

I looked up – a bit confused. A man was standing there.

"A few weeks ago, I borrowed your pen. To sign for a cake."

Bewildered, I said, "Okay, Thanks." The expression on my face was surely one of knitted eyebrow confusion.

"I've been trying to return it for a few days now, but you weren't here"

Strangely amused, I felt that I should explain why. "I only come here on Wednesdays, it's not a problem, I actually had forgotten all about it." A confession.

"Well, you saved me. My wife was quite confused by my call."

"Okay, well, you got your cake in the end, so that's what's important isn't it?"

He seemed to tumble the sentence over in his head like an ice cube on his tongue and smiled a bit.

"Thank you again"

"You're welcome". What an odd man, I thought.

Then he placed the pen on the table and left. I wondered where his accent was from – listening to him – I thought either Chicago or some where in Canada, but, they did sound so similar so I really couldn't put my finger on it.

Again, I went back to reading my book.

Soon, it was the beginning of autumn. It's always been my favorite season of the year, the way the leaves turned from a deep green to a deep auburn and how they rustled under my feet in the park.

I had forgotten my book today, so I was sipping my tea, watching people passing. I was lost deep in a daydream. The kind you can't quite remember when they are finished.


I was a bit dazed.

"Hello?" I said.

"Do you mind if I join you?"

"You may." It was the Cakeman from a month ago. He seemed to be blushing – I wondered whether he was like that all of the time.

"I've been thinking," he said

"Yes" I smiled

"Why are you here only on Wednesdays?"

"Because, it's in the middle of the week, and I have something to look forward to at the beginning of the week and at the end of the week, something to look back on. I know it sounds silly".

"It's not silly at all. I think it's nice".

"Thank you"

"You know I wonder about a lot of things"

"I think most people do"

"You're probably right"

I smiled.

"Where is your accent from?"


"Oh. I've never been there, but will do one day. Maybe."

"It's a beautiful place, but then London has beauty in it too" I noticed something in his eyes when he said that, for a split second. Then, it passed.

He got up and said he had to leave. London is filled with eccentric characters, I thought. After he left, I wondered about what he said. Canada. I thought about a girl I went to school with, from Manitoba or someplace. She was lovely. I went back to people watching, trying to remember the vagaries of foreign geography. It was calming, thinking of the big pink slab of the Commonwealth on the maps at school. England owns all that, I used to think.

Another Wednesday. I'm sitting reading Oscar Wilde, "The Importance of Being Earnest". It is all very English and set in the late Victorian era – everyone seemed to be having a ball in these books. I had grown rather fond of them.

I saw Cake Man enter the patisserie. He went to the counter and ordered. I went back to my book, feigning disinterest.

"May I join you"?

It's definitely the Cake man again. Before I could answer, he sat down. I was going to say "no" and shoo him away, thinking of how rude I was being. To the book.

"I love Wilde – very English" he said earnestly.

"Frankly, I despise him". I was trying to get rid of him.

"Then why are you reading him? You looked like you were enjoying your book."

"I just felt like it, that's all."

"Can I get you another tea?"

"Oh, I'm okay thanks."

"I'll get you another tea"
So he gets up and returns with a cup of tea.

"I got you an Darjeeling – it looked like an Darjeeling, what you're drinking there."

"It is, thank you" It actually wasn't. This made me blush for some reason.
He was looking at me, then he smiled. His smile is infectious. I try desperately not to join him. Again, I'm feeling more flustered.

I get up.

"I have to leave now, thank you for the tea"
He looks disappointed and his smile diminishes. My head hurts. I leave him sitting there.

I decided that I'm changing my reading morning to Tuesdays instead of Wednesdays.

So I'm sitting in my patisserie on a Tuesday, I notice a few regulars but most of the faces are unfamiliar to me. I'm going to like Tuesdays, I think to myself. I'm still enjoying Wilde.

"I missed you on Wednesday"
The Cake man was looking down on me.

"I come here on Tuesdays now" I say, perhaps with a bit too much edge.

"Well, I missed you." He seems to be blushing.

"Thanks." He confuses me. I feel myself getting hotter.

"You remind me of a Coco de Mer."

What? I think. What's he on about? Puzzled, I look at him attentively. He sits down.

"A Coco de Mer, from the Seychelles. They take years and years to grow. Said to be the fruit of love."

My eyes widen. For some reason, I am interested. I'm feeling flustered, drawn in.

"The name translates to 'Fruit of the Sea"

"Oh" is all I can say.

"Your skin looks smooth like it, a deep brown – almost flawless"

I'm trying to control the blood from rushing to my face. I'm hot. He's looking at me intensely, his cheeks are flushed. He holds my gaze.

"Coco" he says, "I like it that you read a book here every week."

I gulp, and whisper "Thank you". I am quite lost, yet, somehow, very comfortable.

I sit there sipping my tea, not entirely sure what happened. I'm feeling giddy and the warm tea is bringing me back to normality. He's still looking at me. Sipping my tea.

"Can I tell you something Coco?"

I'm puzzled as to why he's calling me Coco, and I know that's not my name. It is only then that I realize I have never told him my name. It's all so strange, yet, I am enjoying myself. He reads my expression and offers me an explanation.

"When I saw you, that day when I was getting my cake, I saw you silently glide up to the counter and give your pen to the girl as I was arguing on the phone with my wife. I thought of you as I had never thought of a woman before. I watched you move back to your seat so gracefully, and felt like I could watch you for hours."

I looked at him. He seemed so sincere and calm about what he was saying.

"You were the epitome of Coco de Mer. Every myth which surrounded its beauty and mystery became apparent when I saw you. Your skin is almost the identical shade. So silky and smooth with a hint of caramel. Each time I see you I find you more captivating."

He spoke softly, a glint in his eye. Like someone who had found treasure.
The hairs on the back of my neck rose. His beautiful words washed over me. I was trying to remain neutral, untouched by what he was saying.

"Coco" he whispered
"Will you be my Coco de Mer?"

I was choked. His index finger was stroking my hand as he said this. I could feel my body wanting him. I felt queasy and dizzy. My cheeks were flushed. His finger against my hand complimented one another, almost blending into another shade of brown. His gaze caught mine.

My lips parted. In a whisper I said "Yes".
"Better," he says as he buttons the fly on his pre-faded jeans and stares at the vertical blinds covering my window, "there's no attachments this way. No jealousy, none of that bullshit."

He makes eye contact briefly and I smile mysteriously and focus my gaze on the tattoo on his upper right arm. It's a dao with flames above it and ice below, but the green and blue crystals of ice resemble a wing in the half-light; briefly I fantasize about flying away. He pulls me towards him and kisses me, hard and sudden. I pull away and gasp for air and turn my head.

"You're going to be late," I say, looking down at the little moons at the base of my fingernails. He grunts something and fumbles around, looking for his shirt. He tousles my hair, a gesture I find somehow condescending, as he rises from my bed and walks towards my door. He does not look back. "Better," I whisper at his shadow.

I decide to go out. I stare at my own reflection in the mirror and take stock: unruly black hair, skin the brown of spanish onions, dark eyes. There is a purpling bruise on the place where my neck meets my shoulder. There are teethmarks near my nipple. For someone who values no attachment and no jealousies, he is entirely too fond of leaving marks. He marks his territory. My eyes have a cruel cast to them. I need a shave.

Showered and shaved, love bites hidden beneath a collared shirt, I hit the streets. I am looking for the opposite of the friendly neighborhood bar. Someplace dark and quiet and smoky. Someplace where I can be lost. It's three in the afternoon. A good time to find bars that cater to serious drinking and not entertaining. I find a dive next to a paint store. It looks like the right kind of place. No windows, a neon sign above the door in old-fashioned looping letters. I imagine the lurid red glow of the sign at night, I imagine that the 'C' does not light up. I push open the front door. The walls are panelled in wood, there's a circular firepit and a dour, grey-haired woman at the bar with meaty arms. She nods at me as I approach. The barstool I sit on has had its seat patched over several times with electrical tape, the original burgundy color almost hidden beneath gummy silver. I think I should order something ballsy and masculine like a double scotch on the rocks, but instead ask for a cuba libre. She nods, and splashes rum into a glass without measuring, spritzes in coke from the tap and adds a lime and two swizzle sticks. She hands it to me on a slightly damp napkin. The drink is surprisingly strong and I knock it back quickly, feeling the warmth in my chest. There are packets of airline peanuts in a small wooden bowl on the bar, their foil wrappers gone slightly dusty with neglect. I take one. While attempting to open them I pull too hard and spill peanuts and honey-roast salt over the counter. I trace his name in the salt before sweeping the salt and the nuts away with my slightly damp napkin. The bartender hasn't said a word to me and I find this comforting. No comments on my drinking this early in the day, nothing about my eyes looking sad. Her face is blank, a wall of cinderblock I feel free to decorate with mental graffitti. I order another drink. Scanning the room I see an old fashioned cigarette vending machine, the kind with the knobs and levers. Perversely, I think about buying a pack and lighting up. I don't smoke. Instead, I finish my second drink, pay my bill and leave.

I go for a walk. There's a summer wind, gritty and humid, and the jacaranda trees that jut up from the sidewalk sway and shower me with blossoms. On the horizon, there's the threat of a thunderstorm. The blue blossoms that carpet the pavement bleed into purple as they're crushed beneath my feet. Both aimless and restless I walk along the street, staring into storefronts. I pass a little pentecostal church that was a Used Bookstore six months before. I can hear the rattle of a tambourine, the low moan of an electric organ. I stare into the window and see a heavy middle-aged woman dressed in white dancing, twirling with wild abandon, a paper fan in her hand. There is a savage joy on her face. She closes her eyes against the world as she twirls. The other people in the tiny church raise their hands above their heads and shout, "glory! Hallelujah!". Weary and poor, they reach towards salvation and perfect love. The minister singsongs something I can barely hear and the heavy woman appears to faint. For a long time, I stand and watch through the window until the first heavy drops of rain fall. No one sees me staring, no one invites me in out of the rain. I do not own an umbrella and decide to go home.

The clouds have turned my house comfortably dark, and the rain beats against my windows. I turn on music and look through my bookshelves for something to read. It's Thursday. His art class is three hours, more than two have passed. He likes to come over again on Thursday evenings. The afternoon quickie will have only whet his singular appetite and he will arrive after class ends and fall upon me with kisses and bites as if I were an expensive morsel of dark chocolate. Maybe I shouldn't be at home when he returns. No attachments means that I, too, can be unavailable. Perhaps I will go out, and meet someone new. Someone who will read Neruda to me, and whose puppylike devotion I will eventually despise. Perhaps I will just lie here in the darkness and pretend I am gone when he returns. "Better," I say to myself.

But when the knock at my front door comes, I get up and open it and let him in.

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