We met at a bookstore at some abandoned part of town. It was one of those second-hand bookstores, where young city dwellers came to browse "pre-loved books" (it is, after all, the only fashionable way to read). I was there out of necessity; living on the meager budget of a student meant I couldn't really afford new books (which is a shame, really, what with all the intricate cover illustrations, nowadays).
It was him that approached me (a detail that we would later disagree about), tall and scrawny and all too proud of himself. He said he'd seen me around several times, so occupied with my own thoughts that I wouldn't notice a fire if it were burning right next to me. And what is it that consumes you so? he asked.
"Figuring out how much of my money I could spend without having to sleep on an empty stomach."
"And the verdict is?"
"Well, I really want these books but I haven't had a thing to eat all day, so."
"So," he inched closer, frowning as he tilted the books towards him. I would hardly call it a frown, though; it was more like that wrinkled expression middle-aged men liked to use when intrigued. And it wasn't until I was studying his frown that I realized that I hadn't even bothered looking at him so far.
And he wasn't at all what I imagined he'd look like. There was a calm stillness to his face, but he was not distant; ever present with a half-smile. Eyes the color of honey, that quickly turned dark as black the moment he felt my gaze, as if to conceal some terrible secret of his. And then there were his eye-brows; raven-black and eagerly compensating for the mildness of his expressions with over-the-top movements.
"Ah," he echoed, "She has finally graced me with eye-contact!"
I shrugged and took a step back, to which he instantly took a step forward, "Well, what do you think?"
"This." he grinned, pointing towards his face.
"Well, it doesn't really fit your general demeanor, does it?" I quipped, a bit too aggressively. Something about the way he behaved provoked me to do so (which I later realized was his intention all along).
"So you're either displeased with my looks or my demeanor," he smiled, lowering his head until his chin was almost touching his throat, "I'm not really sure which I'd rather you disliked."
And when my lips parted I was too occupied with the grumbling protests of my stomach to actually say anything. I looked down at the books, sighing, as I shoved them at a random shelf and made my way out. He burst out of the shop, several moments later, stomping towards me. Only then did it dawn on me that I had walked out mid-conversation without saying a word. I was going to apologize, at first, but he was going on about the incredible rudeness of it all that I decided not to. I started walking and, of course, he followed; still very frustrated about my appalling lack of common courtesy. I ignored him as one would ignore a child on one of his tantrums. Not that he noticed, really, as he was too busy talking to himself.
And then, finally, the stars aligned and he quieted down; and after several blocks worth of silence, he abruptly stopped. I had every intention to keep walking, but for reasons beyond my comprehension, decided to stop as well. And when I turned to him, he looked at me with an expression I could only describe as heartbreak; it was almost as if all the forgotten wounds of his past suddenly split open and started to bleed.
"I'm sorry," I finally said; neither smiling, nor frowning, "I am."
And then I carried on.