A Real Charmer

Nigel lived on charm, easy affability. He looked better with a beard and when he let his hair grow longer, into silky dark lustrous whirls. Men loved going to soccer games with him and dueling over an Xbox. Hearty slaps on the back greeted him at pubs. No one ever noticed he never bought his own cigarettes, but he was a voracious social smoker.

Women loved him, period. He had heartbreaking cheekbones and peerless ivory skin. Married or not, their greedy fingers fished out for his under tables. As the wives winked at him without actually winking, the husbands waited for Nigel’s impeccably-timed punch lines.

Nigel finally went home to his basement studio off Littleham Avenue. It was spoiling and dirty, as he had left it. He set down his battered suitcase amidst the gray squalor. He ran his beautiful hands through his luscious hair and was startled to be alone with himself again, at his actual address, with no plan of action. What now, what now he obsessively thought to himself.

Slowly, he went through all five pockets of his worn North Face parka. A battered ticket to the Central Park Zoo. A wrinkled receipt for two lattes at the Kant Café in Berlin. A small stub of a receipt to The Naam in Vancouver, BC. Half a cigarette, the other half broken off and lost. A tiny blue notebook filled with phone numbers and a well-marked calendar. He was a duck who migrated to keep himself well-fed and amused. Red lint. Key to a forgotten door. Someone else’s Nordstrom gift card. A San Francisco library card. A shopping list with the following items: mangoes, pink champagne, green olives, water crackers. A pocket-sized rendition of the Prague bus system.

He pulled out these fragments, he excavated pieces of his life, an actual lived life, but everything was askew. He held the latte receipt from Berlin for a long time. The once perfect white paper with clear black letters had become gray and smudgy and shiny.

If you really looked at him, over a long period of time, you’d have noticed the bags under his eyes were getting heavier. But he never stuck around long enough for anyone to notice his history.

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