Jason’s chest fluttered with butterflies of anxiety. His palms dug deep into his forehead, stretching his skin out enough to temporarily alleviate his worry lines. Looking upward through his palms, he mindlessly watched the scene of a quaint coffee shop. It wasn’t busy, but it wasn’t dead. That was the way he liked it. He sat in an out-of-the-way seat against the wall of the intimate space. He let his mind break to watch the other lives happen around him from time to time. This exercise gave him the ability to step away from the page and reapproach with a fresher mindset.
An old white grandpa-looking man had just walked in and began an overly conversational order with a young purple-haired barista.
“If I had any left, I might ask ya’ where I could go to make my hair that pretty purple you got there!”
“Ah. The old man’s got jokes too,” he whispered to himself, rolling his mind’s eyes.
The man showed her his bald scalp before returning a newsboy cap back to the top of his head.
“I think they can be called driving caps.” Jason thought as he wrote the term down. “A good old English gentleman might wear one of those, but he would call it a driving cap, not a newsboy cap.”
His mind traveled with that story as the girl awkwardly smiled and gestured for the old man to tap his card. “Let’s get back on track here. Michelangelo.”
Jason pulled out his phone to bring up the facts again. He went to a Wikipedia article for Michelangelo, then the link, Famous Works. He read another version of the story from which he planned to articulate his facts. He then went to another site for Michelangelo’s biography.
“Okay, now what year did it start again, was it fifteen…”
“And here I thought working on your next novel from a coffee shop was just something for the movies.”
Still looking down, Jason hid a sigh under his breath before moving. As his head rose to address the man standing before him, he made a few assumptions with each rising inch of his head. These would conclude to the final presentation of his calculated response:
It’s the old man with the driving cap. He’s expecting a response of equal civility as his. I need to hide my annoyance with the interruption while conveying a witty response of equal candor. Given the timeframe, he likely paid with cash for his drink.
“I guess romance isn’t totally dead after all,” keeping it shallow and measured. Jason opened his eyes and forced his smile wider than natural as he tried to convey a sincere gesture to accompany his witty one-liner. The old man reflected the gesture and slowly inched into a seat at the next table with his back against the wall, as Jason’s was.
With that behind him, Jason relaxed again and went back to reading from his phone and writing the next sentence of his work. He scribbled out the next few sentences as a smile grew momentum across his face. His gaze intensified. The letter began to formulate itself upon the paper as his creative mind fell into free flow. He pulled away again to see the once blank page now filled with the intricacies of his emotional anxieties.
“Should I do this? Maybe I should let the space between us sort this out? What if I just sent a text? Maybe I should wait another week.” Just as Jason’s mind had started to descend into the throes of a mental wrestling match, he was brought back to reality.
“Romance isn’t totally dead? What, are you writin’? A love letter?”
Again, Jason momentarily froze to cover the hint of frustration and buy time to formulate a response. “I am, actually. To my… well…” Jason swallowed heavily, “to my boyfriend. We have… I have been going through a lot, and I want him to know how much I love him.”
Jason turned to the stranger. Having hurled his unnecessary honesty at the shallowness of the man’s intrusive question, he hoped the awkward air might end the chance of any conversation and send the man away. The old man seemed to stiffen his posture in response. He looked almost stoic, like a painting of an old President. Jason noticed the depth of blue in his eyes that shone through his white bushy eyebrows. He studied Jason with the firm stillness of a statue that had nothing else to do but watch visitors for centuries. Jason’s heart began beating faster.
“Would you mind reading me what you’ve wrote?” He replied frankly. Jason clambered together a coherent response. “You want to hear… my letter?”
“I’m interested to hear what a love letter sounds like today. Can I hear it?”
“Uhm well okay, but I have to explain...”
“Ahhhh. You don’t have to explain a love lett…”
“No. No. Yes, I do because there’s a message beneath the story I am telling, and you need to understand that first for it to make sense.”
“Alright. Alright. Let’s hear then.”
Jason’s confident rebuke to the man’s intrusion seemed to turn against him. He felt a tremble in his hands and heat in his face. There was nothing else to do. Jason asked the man if he was familiar with Michelangelo. “Maybe he will lose interest and go away,” he thought.
“Yeah. The Sistine Chapel!” The old man smiled.
“Yes. But not just The Sistine Chapel. He also sculpted the famous statue of David.”
To this the man made a laughing smile and pulled away before re-entering the conversation. “Yes, and David too. Does that make you Goliath, then?”
Jason irresistibly smirked. He wondered at the various scenes his mind created with that notion. He thought that might be an interesting interpretation to paint into his letter later, but for now, he refrained and pushed on.
“No, but I am Michelangelo! Writing has always been my outlet, and my most sincere form of expression, particularly to those who are important to me. You see, I’m a film writer. My job is to create magical love stories for people to enjoy, but never my own story. I feel like my passion gets pillaged and sold to the masses, leaving nothing for the man I love.”
Jason then began explaining the story behind the creation of the statue of David and its pertinence to his work in progress. He told how the massive marble stone was harvested and moved to Florence, Italy but deemed unusable by several master artists of the time. From there it sat for 25 years before the young, unknown, and ambitious Michelangelo claimed that he could make the stone into a work of art. Michelangelo would sculpt a young David, the famous slingshot-slayer of Goliath. He summarized his lecture by pointing out that what once was deemed an unusable piece of stone became one of the most loved pieces of renaissance art that still stands today. David was Michelangelo’s masterpiece for the ages.
With the history lesson over, Jason proceeded to explain why this was important to his romantic gesture. “But there is another part of the story about David that not many know.”
“Oh. And what is that?” Asked the old man now humbly listening to the red-faced Jason.
“Michelangelo created a statue and called it David, but the figure of the man we see was really just a vision of love as Michelangelo saw it through his own eyes." The old man seemed intrigued, as Jason continued with his sappy soapbox. "His name is lost to time, and his existence kept secret, but the real-life figure of David was Michelangelo’s lover.”
The man’s head nodded slightly.
“For instance, the carved out depth of David’s eyes was not created by vertical notches like other statues of the day. In David’s eyes, Michelangelo etched his love in stone. David’s pupils are formed by the unmistakable shape of hearts.”
The man remained attentive and still, focused on Jason’s momentum gaining wave of prose that was about to climax to a perfectly timed crescendo.
“So you see, Michelangelo’s magnum opus, was his love that has lasted hundreds of years. David is Michelangelo’s love, made immortal by his exquisite skill and artistry. He didn’t sell out. He made his love his work and proved it can be done. In this way, I think I want to be Michelangelo.”
Jason’s wound-up tensions had finally been released in that final spew of emotion. Vocalizing what had otherwise only been said by heart or hand felt uncomfortable. His ego felt bruised, and eyes damp. His hands slightly trembled. He then sat facing the old man, closer since their introduction. He expected a response of delight to his epic of romantic prose. The old man, however, remained quiet and focused, allowing Jason to settle back into the coffee shop scene that he had traveled from in his hefty wandering of words.
“Hhm. Who said romance is dead, eh?” The man inquired with a quick smile, exposing his perfectly aligned dentures.
He didn’t say anything else. He just looked at Jason for another moment with the same curious stoic smile as earlier. Jason impulsively moved to break the stillness in the conversation. “Well, I guess now I can read…”
The old man waved his hand as he leaned back to his natural posture, shifting his gaze toward the rest of the coffee shop. He cut Jason off. “Oh no, no you don’t have to.”
Jason didn’t know what to say. He imagined that he gave the man more than he bargained for. He tried to figure out what to do next. With so much awkward air suffocating his brain, he would never be able to re-focus on writing his letter. He tried not to look embarrassed, which made him start to feel annoyed at the unwelcome interruption altogether.
“I am sure that letter of yours will be exemplary, young man.”
The old man began slowly pulling himself from his seat. He made his way out from around his table and stood tall, looking down at Jason who remained seated. The depth of the man’s blue eyes nearly overtook the curious smile he wore on his face. It was a look that somehow made Jason feel comfortable and if nothing else, understood.
“You’re obviously a fine writer, and you’ll surely find the pretty words that will get your point across to uhh… well, David.” The man smiled again.
“I’ve had sincere love in my life before. You and I are different people. Different generations and such, but I suppose maybe you and I can relate on what that feels like.”
Jason tried to hide any of his awkward embarrassment by forcing the same overly animated smile as earlier.
“You seem like a smart kid. I won’t take any more of your time, but I do have one question to ask.”
Jason felt heat in his face again. “Okay.”
“What did David create?”
Jason wondered if the old man was confused. “What… do you mean?”
“Well, you told me a great deal about Michelangelo; How and why he created David and so on.”
“That’s right.” Jason saw that there might be something deeper behind the man’s hypnotic blue eyes.
“But I ask you what did David create?”
The question floated down to Jason like the flight of a falling feather, but he answer landed on him like a ton of bricks. The old man tugged the brim of his cap in farewell before turning around, walking to the exit, and sending a final smile-filled wave to the purple-haired barista.
Jason sank back in his seat as the heaviness of his thoughts fluttered into place. He looked down again at his notebook and saw a note from earlier. Driving Cap. His smile grew wide, this time authentically. He turned to a new page and wrote down one sentence.
“From now on, I hope that when you look into my eyes, you see a mirror that reflects all the love that has been staring me in the face this whole time.”
He signed, dated, and folded his note before leaving the coffee shop, unable to stop smiling about the conversation he had with an old chap in a driving cap.
With all the love, seen and unseen, I give you this little story.
Jake Dzurino <3