For your consideration, this re-write of a story I did last year. It’s about the idea that two people are always meant to find each other.
Broderick Ziegfield and Adam Necessary are the protagonists of my WIP novel, Chasing Time. The world of Chasing Time is a multiverse where several iterations of a person exist simultaneously in alternate timelines. The book focuses on the “first” version of Adam, who discovers accidentally that he can time travel, but I’m loving the idea of writing short stories about alternate “normie” versions of him (and Broderick).
The Adam and Broderick in “Déjà Vu” are two of many versions of themselves to discover that there’s something more to their first meeting.
Broderick Ziegfield is already having an off morning. He finds himself standing in Pot Kettle Black, his usual morning coffee shop hideout, with a splitting migraine caused by a number of factors. The chief complaint is that he can’t afford his Adderall script, among other things, and his brain is reeling from the lack of intense focus. Also out of focus is the prescription for his glasses, nearly a decade overdue for adjustment, blurring the lines of the room. The frame has been dropped so many times, it’s crooked and pinching the bridge of his nose, multiplying the pain behind his eyes.
For all those reasons and more, Broderick needs caffeine to replace his need for amphetamine and a functioning bank account stat. He’s grateful to find only one person, a male college student, his age, standing between him and the counter. But it looks like this guy’s determined to take as long possible surveying the menu, in a meandering, high-pitched southern drawl, with the resident morning barista Santana.
“Well, it is Tuesday,” he muses, “so I’m not sure if I should go with the melange, the con panna, or the house flat white. What do you think?”
“Well, the melange and con panna are brewed from the Seattle-based Sperl beans that we roast in the back ourselves.” Santana loves a tourist. “I just got done with this batch at 5 a.m., so those are gonna be your best tasting, hands down. And right now our house white’s brewed with the Julianna.”
“You know, I know it’ll probably get me lynched for saying it here, but I don’t jack shit about beans and they all taste the same to me. Granted, back home I mostly drank Folgers, so.”
“Hey, man, Folgers gets the job done, kind of. Where’s back home?”
Their seemingly innocent chatter continues on, with Santana more than willing to initiate a virgin into the fold; Broderick always knows she’s going in when she starts describing blends as “ambrosial” and breaks out the mason jar samples of beans to smell. His patience thinning, Broderick edges up in line so Mr. Opelousas will feel the gravity of someone behind him. What Broderick gets instead of acknowledgment, however, is a whiff of the man’s cologne, probably mixed with his natural scent, and something happens.
He can’t place where, when, or who he’s known that’s smelled like this, but he knows for a fact that he’s been surrounded by it before, pressed up against skin. He backs up again, trying to look unfazed by the strange déjà vu, but something happens again. Since the dawn of realizing he was gay, Broderick has always had thing for the backs of men’s necks – is that weird? fuck it, he’s an artist, they’re all weird – and there’s something about this man’s hairline. The tightness of the ringlet curls, and a mole just below the fade, make him feel, again, like he’s been up close with them before. Clearly his headache-inducing empty stomach is causing inappropriate cravings for the backs of annoying, lost strangers.
Finally, the man in front of him has made something of a decision, turning to dig around in the satchel over his shoulder. But Broderick can’t stop looking at the man’s profile, half in irritation and half in awe. The person before him is all razor sharp cheekbones, angles and jaw – the face of a model in high fashion, though Broderick doubts Opelousas has anything resembling a scene for working models. Regardless, Broderick feels his artist’s gears whirring at the sight: when that kind of proportion occurs in nature, it scratches that itch every artist has to memorize it.
But he swears, if it takes this gorgeous swamp dweller one more minute to pick a drink—
“You know?” The man continues his satchel dive. “After all that, I think I’m just gonna go with the house white. Safe not sorry or whatever they say, right?”
Broderick sends an eyeroll skyward.
“Basic ass might as well have gone to Starbucks.”
He planned on the little release of steam being inaudible to the stranger, but the man’s quick turn, and dirty look, lets him know his slip of the tongue was heard. Doesn’t help getting a clearer view of that face – the man’s brown skin practically glows, his black eyes are covered in lashes, his lips are full and flushed – the kind of face God uses as the prototype for people who make you wish you were never born. The view is over far too soon.
“Actually, could I smell those last four again? And I think I’ll try the first two. We’ve got plenty of time here, right?”
“Oh my God.”
“Sure.” Santana smirks, catching on. She’s known Broderick too long to not take advantage of a chance to press him. “Take your time, babe.”
While she scoops her samples into their jars, Broderick tries and fails to get his way with God.
“Could you at least let me get in line in front of you?” he says to the man’s back. “Not all of us are wide-eyed southern bumpkin prairie dogs with no idea how coffee works.”
“Okay,” the man spits, not turning around, “I’m already having an off morning so I don’t have time for self-important hipster ass black James Franco wannabes who probably think that ‘crawled outta bed five minutes ago’ is fashion.”
Broderick’s guts twist, because he did crawl out of bed five minutes ago – before he walked downstairs from his loft and had to deal with this shit – and he’s been called all of those things multiple times – except James Franco – but because it’s coming from someone so hot? He doesn’t know whether or not to thank the guy.
Broderick watches as Santana returns to the counter with the jars, including small brewed samples of the con panna and white. With a flick of his eyes to profile, that says he knows that Broderick’s watching, the man sniffs and sips as slow as possible, closing his eyes to savor each sense. The way his Adam’s apple bobs with each swallow is obscene, and he’s mirroring the words Santana used to describe aromas that aren’t even in the coffee in front of him, Broderick knows, because he’s had every drink on the menu.
“Oh, yeah, the white is my winner,” the man decides. He digs around in his bag again, but then:
“I’m so sorry. My wallet’s in my car.”
“For fuck’s sake.”
The man disappears through the shop’s glass doors.
“Can you ring me up before that dunce gets back?” Broderick says to Santana. “I’ll have the usual but hold the—”
“I would,” Santana says, “but it hurts my excellence points if I cancel a check without a closing it, and I had to ring in every one of his samples, and it’s hilarious how much this is getting to you.”
But the man returns momentarily, wallet in hand, orders with a smile and no more fuss. Takes his order to-go, leaves a thirty dollar tip. Broderick’s bleary gaze follows him all the way out, wondering how someone who looks like that, from somewhere that seems like nowhere, ended up here, in the eternally rainy city.