31 août 2007

The Dollar Bill

(sorry I haven't posted in quite a time, things have been kind of crazy in the real world. Anyway, I've actually started working on a real story, but then this scene sort of randomly popped into my head and it really doesn't fit in the story so I wrote it as its own little stand-alone scene)

The barista handed me my change without counting it back to me. I don't expect people to count back my change anymore -- they don't know how. I was shoving the dollar bill into my bag, no time to look for my wallet itself, when I noticed some cramped handwriting on one of the short edges. "Ce que je veux…" On the opposite short edge was "Ce que je veux dire…" I stopped short and the man behind me nearly ran into me.

"Hey, watch where you're going!" he shouted, nearly dumping his elaborate coffee drink all over me. I stepped out of his way and looked at the bill again. I wondered to myself how I had come to possess what was probably the sole piece of American currency upon which was written French words. I sipped at my green tea and then realised I was going to be late to meet him for lunch.

When I got to the restaurant, he was already seated. I strode past a busboy who glared at me. I don’t know why we had to meet at this restaurant -- the staff does not like me since I complained about the absence of tea on their menu. Still, I seated myself at the booth and looked at him.

"How are you?"
"Fine." Ce que je veux dire… "And you?"
"Great. I'm glad you're here."
I looked at him curiously. "Why wouldn't I have come?"
He seemed slightly unsure of himself. "Oh, I don't know. The last time we got together…" He trailed off.
"It's fine." Ce que je veux…
"Well, excellent." He sipped at his water. "We got a new department director at the University."
"Yeah. It's me."
"How excellent! Congratulations!" He beamed at me, and I had to smile.

"I can take your order whenever you're ready." The waitress glared at my paper cup of tea.
"I'd like to build my own omelette: egg whites only with spinach and swiss cheese."
The waitress turned me. "And for you?"
Ce que je veux…
"I'd like an English muffin, dry, and the seasonal fruit bowl."
"Anything to drink?" I glared at the waitress and she went away.

We talked for a while, even after the food came. Small chatter between bites. I picked at my food like I always do and so he finished before I did. After a time he looked at me, "Well?"
"I don't know, I figured it should be your turn to talk."
Ce que je veux dire…
He looked at me strangely. "What are you thinking?"
"Of my ce."
He blinked a couple times. "Of what?"
I pulled out the dollar bill and slid it over to him. "And since I got it, all I can wonder is, what is my ce? What do I want? What do I want to say?"
"I see."
"Do you?"
"Well, I don't know… it's a dollar bill. Someone wrote on it. It's not a big deal."
"Look, I don't believe in fate, you know that. But someone wrote on American currency. In French. I speak French. The dollar bill came to me because I was meeting you and you chose a restaurant that doesn't serve tea. And even these weird circumstances that caused the bill to come to me don't really matter. What matters is that I read it, and I've stopped to think now, what IS the ce that I want? What is the ce that I want to say?"

The waitress came back just then and looked at me as though I were speaking another language. I suppose I was in a way. She left the check and went away. He pulled out a calculator to figure out tip. The conversation was over.

Ce que je veux…. Ce que je veux dire…

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