Validation of your sex appeal can be intoxicating until it comes from the wrong person. Yet sometimes unwelcome attention can lead to something unexpected, unavoidable and completely worthwhile.
The workday has not been a cheerful one. I have a lot on my mind. I'm not sleeping well either. My unshaven reflection in the mirror offers instant confirmation that I look as tired and miserable as I feel.
I'm craving a cigarette, but of course I haven't any. A quick walk to the corner store - a convenient oasis for my deflated spirit - soon remedies that, and I decide to treat myself to a fag before returning to my desk.
I take a seat across the street from work on the small stone wall at the back of a church. A slight scent of sulphur takes flight as I strike a match and light my cigarette.
Blissful downtime, until a man appears seemingly out of nowhere and asks if I can spare a cigarette. He seems to be a bit down on his luck, so I'm more than happy to oblige. Miracle of miracles, I find myself offering him a few.
"No, no. You don't have to," he assures me.
"In a way you're doing me a favour. The less of these I smoke myself, the healthier I am." My warped logic brings a smile to both our faces - not to mention that of Health Canada - and the stranger asks if he can sit with me while he has a smoke.
I'd prefer to be left alone, but instead shrug my shoulders. "Sure. Why not?"
"How did you get to be so cute?" he asks nonchalantly as he takes a seat on the stone wall.
Come again? Do I really look that gay to immediately be on the receiving end of a question like this? Could it be how I'm holding my cigarette? Should I uncross my legs?
"I guess I was just born that way," I reply in a lame-ass tone that I'm hoping is equal parts polite and discouraging.
"Good one," he smiles. "You just come up with that now?"
I nod. He seems to think that I'm flirting with him. Shit. Maybe I should be looking off into the distance when I speak. Or picking my nose.
"You're smart, too."
"Thanks." What else am I supposed to say?
"So, do you live around here?"
I can no longer deny where this is going. "Sort of," I answer.
"So maybe you and I could hook up some time?"
"I think my boyfriend might have a problem with that," I declare with absolute relief and diplomacy. The direction of the dialogue finally seems under my control. Wrong again.
The stranger quickly changes the subject. Cuts to the chase. Tells me how he's in town for the day to visit a sick friend. It's only when he shares the story of his missing wallet and being a little short on bus fare that I realize what his objective has been all along. He isn't trying to get into my pants, just their pockets.
I'm stunned and temporarily speechless. Although certainly not looking for this guy to express an interest in me, I never suspected that money was his motivation for doing so. I'm at once hurt, angry and confused.
I just don't get it. Did this guy take one look at me and instantly peg me as charitable, vulnerable, naive or just plain stupid? And to approach me in broad daylight not 10 feet away from a church? That takes some balls. Either that or desperation, I remind myself, and in doing so return to earth with both feet planted firmly.
In response to his request for money, I apologize and tell him that I've just spent the last of it on the pack of cigarettes we're smoking. Honest.
Not surprisingly, the conversation comes to a quick conclusion. The stranger puts out his cigarette and stands up.
"Maybe I'll see you around?" he softly inquires, ever the gentleman, before continuing down the sidewalk, no doubt in search of his lost wallet.
"Not if I see you first," I want to say, but instead settle for, "Hey, you never know." I've already made my point. There's no reason to be rude about it.
The stranger takes a few steps and then turns back to address me.
What now? Is there unfinished business between us? Am I about to be told that I've just been caught on Candid Camera? Fuck, maybe he's going to pull a knife or gun on me, proving once and for all that smoking can kill you.
His voice cracks with unexpected sincerity. "Tell your boyfriend that he's one lucky guy to have you." Again realization renders me silent as I watch him disappear around the corner.
Maybe I should have bought a cheaper brand of smokes after all.