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Henry Schweizer III walked along Division Avenue with intention. His thick soled black wing-tips struck the hard pavement with resounding clicks as he descended the valley between downtown’s canyon-like office buildings. It was a somewhat chilly late afternoon in September, coercing him to close his billowing wool trench coat with his free hand. The other rested securely upon his leather laptop case that suspended from his shoulder. Though his head faced forward amidst the stream of eager bureaucrats returning early to their homes for a scotch (or two or three) and a daily dose of television, his eyes looked to the bottom of his Eddie Bauer sunglasses and the sidewalk. As he left the paper-pushing half of the emptying downtown and towards the slowly filling commercial portion dominated by Oleanna University, the sidewalk bore Eisenhower dollar sized black splotches from smashed gum and innumerable undated sidewalk-chalk advertisements urging him to see a concert or vote for the city council election two weeks ago.
His eyes faced forward as he came to the more unfamiliar sector. Spotting a few young girls in short skirts and guys in shorts, he laughed with certain superiority, allowing his coat to open just slightly as he adjusted the newsy cap upon his head. Henry had checked the forecast and knew of a snow storm coming later. Compared to the ignorant college undergrads, he was overdressed for the moment. In the corner of his eye he vaguely saw a couple dozen such underdressed young persons in a small grassy common with placard signs bearing the phrase “SLEEP-IN FOR THE HOMELESS” and also a few tables with food. Demonstrations like these were ludicrously common in this hotbed of liberal activism so he thought nothing of it and freely entered Free Trade Coffee House. Their door was open to allow the steadily electrified fresh air to circulate.
Even though the coffee shop’s patrons could be counted without taking off your socks, he reserved a seat by removing his jacket and placing it upon the table. Out of caution he did not relinquish his lap top. He stepped in line and examined the colored chalk sketched variety of trade barrier free coffee harvested and cured from the culled rain forests of Brazil. Most of it was absurdly expensive nonetheless so he merely ordered a dark roast with an extra shot of espresso. He sat in a padded chair facing the back of the shop so his wandering eyes would not venture to the front window and distract him from the work he was doing. As a graduate student of business, the leader of the College Republicans, and intern at the State Capitol, his work never ceased and coffee-shops, provided he wore his noise canceling headphones, were the best place to do it.
In a total work state of mind two hours later, he did not notice the door close when the first chilly gust raced down the street. Nor did he notice the wetly frigid air surround him every time a patron entered with white capped shoulders and hair. The flakes of frozen water melted against their joining strands and dripped like cold sweat into their stunned eyes.
“Wow, that just came out of nowhere!” one particular girl exclaimed to the shop owner. “I don’t think anyone saw that coming!” Conditions worsened and mere hours after the storm began, cars were mucking about in brown slush as they struggled to drive down the blanketed Division Avenue. The first time the chill bothered him he inattentively groped for his coat and put it on as he continued reading the latest e-mails from possible speakers for the CRs’ Veterans for the War panel. The city was approaching a useless referendum demanding what his side called “cut and run” but he hoped the panel would be a symbolic gesture reminding the pinko city they shared the country with conservatives. The campus had more than its share of anti-war activism and he and his friends thought it a good plan to at least create some debate even though the local liberal media had already decided what the public thought. His lone cup of half drunk coffee, long since cold, stood sentry as his soft fingertips typed competently on his flat keyboard for over five hours. The glowing screen received his undivided attention. A finger delicately tapped him on the shoulder. He removed his headphones and looked perturbedly at the intruder who turned out to be an employee.
“Sorry but we’re closing early because of the weather,” he said with efficient ease since Henry was the tenth patron he informed. Henry looked quizzically at the youngish looking blond undergrad but kept his hands at his headphones just in case it was a false alarm. “It’s getting real bad out there,” he explained more naturally to the bewildered customer. Henry turned his torso around and finally saw the blanket of white. He smiled smugly and told the employee that, apparently unlike everyone else in the room, he checked the weather forecast and had prepared accordingly. The young man smiled weakly to Henry but chittered his mouth in mock confrontation as he turned away. Henry, smugly satisfied with his forethought that got him quite a few laughs when he went to class and work that morning, assembled his things and bursa escort left into the cold.
Henry’s frozen breath came back at him as the sharp wind forced itself into his nose and throat, and the flakes stuck against his glasses. He passed the snow coated common but stopped when he heard furious yelling between a man and a woman. His heart quickened. He carefully removed his gloves and put his hand into his pocket, grasping his small knife as he cautiously stepped closer to see if the woman was being assaulted.
“Don’t go! We’re making a statement here!” he heard her yell into the white night.
“But it’s fucking freezing!” the male voice shivered. “I’m all for supporting the homeless but this is too much!”
“Exactly! Imagine not having a place to sleep tonight!”
“Who gives a fuck about the homeless! It’s always something with you! I’ve had it!” he shouted with finality and noisily ran opposite Henry’s direction. Satisfied it was not an assault, Henry nearly turned back to continue the excursion to his car but curiosity made him continue to the unseen woman.
“What’s wrong?” he sounded as non-threateningly as possible to the slowly clearer figure.
“Whose there?!” she asked forcefully but with a quiver of fright or cold—probably both.
“I was walking by and I heard your argument with your boyfriend and I was concerned…” he trailed off when he finally saw her. Dressed in the disaffected vogue of a shabby black hooded sweatshirt atop an army of other layers, she wore an accompanying camouflage skirt modestly protecting her black nylon covered legs which were buried in black high heeled combat boots. Her arms crossed underneath and lifted her small masked breasts. Her hair, brown at the roots but raven black in the rest, was bound carelessly at the crown of her head. A few rogue strands in front swayed with the fierce wind, highlighting the minute features of her red cheeked and pierced face. Burning in the white darkness were two cat like eyes.
“HE’S MY EX-BOYFRIEND NOW! IT’S SO EASY TO SAY YOU SUPPORT SOMETHING WITHOUT ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT!” she turned and yelled behind to her long gone boyfriend.
“There were more of you earlier. What were you trying to do?” he asked sympathetically remembering the demonstration just hours ago.
“More like what am I trying to still do!” she yelled as she brought her fiery glare to the freezing sky. “We’re here to raise awareness for a homeless shelter for this coming Winter!” she stomped the hard ground angrily, “By sleeping outside we hoped to do that but it snowed and they all chickened out!”
“It seems Winter already came,” he joked. “You should have checked the Weather Channel this morning,” he said with a superior smirk. He could not help himself.
“Yeah, yeah, I suppose. It’s just that the winters’ve been coming later and ending sooner with global warming and things so I guess I just anticipated rain at worst when I planned it.” Henry’s smile faded. He hated that buzz phrase bred from scientific half truths crafted by liberal scientists and paid for by alternative energy lobbyists but he decided not to correct her carelessly adopted leftist indoctrination. Wishing not to make a scene, he smiled again (however falsely) but unbeknownst to the woman who had not noticed the first one either.
“They were right in one thing though. You should come in, you’ll die out here without a tent and sleeping bag.”
“But homeless people don’t have tents! They usually don’t even have blankets! And city laws say they can’t panhandle in front of businesses anymore!” she shouted to the sky in unthinking rage. As far as Henry was concerned, the homeless, mentally ill or not, were a plague and their begging was bad for stores and and the university when prospective students toured the campus. Though he did not want the bums to die, he certainly would not miss them if they did. “But just in case, I did bring a sleeping bag,” she offered diffidently with a small pout.
“Where?” he asked searching the ground. Her foot ventured under the layer of white and kicked a snow camouflage sleeping bag a foot over, uncovering virgin pavement. “Yeah, you’re coming inside,” he laughed. She protested indignantly but her quivering and bashful smile betrayed her words. She quickly grasped her bag, shook the snow off, and accepted his coat when he draped it over her back.
“Thanks,” she said appreciatively with a slight shake in her pierced bottom lip. He kept his arm draped over her shoulder as he escorted her back to the gradually emptying but still open coffeeshop. The woman behind the counter looked at them sternly and grunted.
“She needs something warm, she’s been out in the cold for hours,” he started compassionately to cool the woman’s attitude, “so stop looking at me like I’ve asked an unreasonable favor,” he added to guilt her. He turned his head to his charge and looked into her light brown eyes, “Get anything you want, it’s on me.” She looked at the signage, picked a soft apple cider and a vegan brownie, but stepped between him and the counter to prevent him from paying for her. He protested bursa merkez escort but the register’s bell and clanging drawer drowned him out. They sat down.
“You know I would have gladly paid for you, you know…” he began right as they adjusted in their seats.
“I don’t like owing men much of anything. I feel like a prostitute or something.”
“A prostitute?” he laughed, “What about a gift from a stranger?—I’m Henry by the way.”
“Anya—but anyways. Think about it. Prostitution is money for service. With men, he gives a diamond ring and a dinner and she fucks him. That’s the deal. It’s almost the same thing.” Henry was not used to that kind of language but he tried not to show his discomfort. “And then there’s that whole thing with women owning their bodies through prostitution which,” now looking resolutely into his eyes and venturing her hand from his draped coat to condescendingly point her finger at him, “by the way is utter bullshit since they’re doing men and indulging the patriarchal complex that dominates the world…” she trailed tangentially as if it were the conversation’s logical conclusion and a given assumption between two like-minded people.
“But I’m not trying to have sex with you, I’m trying to be nice,” he calmly corrected her.
“Yeah, but it’s the principle of the thing,” she did likewise and took a bite of her vegan brownie. Her piercing clicked against the cider cup as she sipped the food down. She drank until it poured warmth down her throat and collected merrily into her stomach.
“So you’re vegetarian,” he injected some small talk to get away from apparently hot button topics. He did not want to embarrass the woman with his superior arguing skills and thorough grasp of social politics.
“Yeah. But I eat vegan when I can, like now.”
“I couldn’t stand it? I mean, I would never just eat veggie food like that,” he said pointing to the crumbs on her small plate. She faced the table but her eyes looked up at him as if he had asked the stupidest question on Earth.
“It’s a brownie,” she reminded him. “A chocolate-chip banana one. This is the kind,” she held it up between her hennaed thumb and forefinger, “without pork.” He coughed awkwardly. Even without the snow her eyes burned. They were close together even for a woman with such a petite head, but Henry would never go so far as to call it a flaw. Her cheek bones were higher than he had seen for a white woman but without much definition. She was an above average beauty with her own harmless but unique features that made her stand out amongst the rabble. If it were not for her piercings, attire, and as he was slowly learning, her attitude, she would be gorgeous.
“I see you got apple cider instead of coffee,” he changed the conversation to drinking preference, an area he hardly considered a mine field.
“Oh I don’t drink coffee from here,” she shook her head. “In fact, I feel kind of uncomfortable sitting here with the enemy,” she grimaced as she raised her narrow shoulders, doing her best to hide her head like a turtle. Henry nodded knowingly. He figured her for the anti-corporate type.
“Actually it’s an independent coffeeshop,” he corrected her.
“Oh that’s not it,” she briefly closed her eyes and gently shook her head, “it’s the free trade stuff—and I’m surprised they have vegan stuff here at all by the way. Free trade makes corporations more powerful than third world governments and increases poverty,” she explained again as if this was a shared assumption between them. In just a few minutes of knowing her she had not said anything he agreed with and he could not let her wrongness continue unchecked any longer.
“You know, free trade benefits everyone with cheaper goods and globalization has been happening for millennia.” It was her turn to shudder in discomfort and a glimmer of argumentation flamed behind her drying bangs.
“They make the people on top richer,” she claimed.
“Since free trade there have been no wars between the powers…” he replied.
“But mutually assured destruction has nothing to do with that,” she added sarcastically, “and mass genocide is just fine as long as it stays in the third world…” she said as if continuing his sentence with her own contention.
“Which are stopped by an army you and your friends don’t like supporting with taxes that you probably don’t even have to pay yet since you’re probably still a dependent…”
“On income tax that your people want to abolish for a flat tax that favors the rich…”
“But gets rid of a huge bureaucracy that gets screwed over by…”
“Salt of the earth Rush Limbaugh listening rednecks!” she ended to sound triumphant and finish the two party run-on sentence but she merely made him raise his voice more.
“Who vote for the Republicans time and time again because!…”
“You’ve tricked them into thinking lower taxes will solve everything!…” she cringed as she leaned forward to make her words reach him sooner and perhaps pierce that thick skull of his. “That’s all it ever is with you people is taxes, taxes, taxes. The United bursa sınırsız escort States has the lowest taxes of any nation even close to us in strength. We spend more of our budget on medicare for partial coverage than Europe does for comprehensive…”
“And if you need a pap-smear you’re fucked cus it aint cost effective and you’re on a waiting list for two months!…”
“But that’s just at their tax-rate which is less than we spend on Medicare!…”
“And then when Mexicans get pissed they can riot in Los Angeles and Houston like the Muslims in France cus we’ll jealously guard our jobs and have a twenty percent unemployment rate!…”
“But if those jobs pay shit then there’s no point! Adam Smith nor Karl Marx predicted a service sector so large.” Henry opened his mouth and pointed his finger for a reply—he had a good one too—but the soft tone at the end told his distant mind that the last sentence required a more intelligent answer. It was a reasonable challenge, not the interrupted sentence or exclamatory statement but something he could give her an honest answer for. He lowered his finger, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath to collect himself.
Her breaths were long and deep and her heart raced from the sprint of argumentation. It was so rare for Anya to meet someone of Henry’s conservative mind. But at that moment, her debate muscle stretched and ached from atrophy while a wet warmth radiated from her womanhood and spread to her legs. Her neck hurt so she reckoned the debate muscle was located there. Henry’s heart sped like he too had sprinted but the exhilaration of arguing excited his limp penis and it bulged slightly, benefiting from the same expanded circulation that stimulated his brain. His forehead shined slightly from his modest sweating so he took off his hat to let his scalp cool but his glasses only fogged further.
“Because they’re jobs, and everyone who can work should,” he articulated softly to indicate he did not want to start the shouting match over again despite his exhilaration.
“Yes, they’re JUST jobs. Pointless demeaning jobs,” she replied in kind. Henry looked at the table top, seeing Anya absentmindedly swirl an amber spiral in her cup. Their cheeks enflamed pink not from the cold outside but the heat between them, they seethed in anger and frustration at their ignorant and self-righteous partner in discussion.
“You can’t see how wrong you are!” they both said at the exact moment. “Gah!” they exclaimed with frustration and annoyance. They continued fighting across the small circular table. Henry’s growing erection forced him to uncross his legs but, with his higher mind busy developing counter-arguments for her present and future attacks, he did not notice this modest reflex of his lower mind. Anya however crossed her legs. Years of conditioning by the dominant male social and political class had made her self conscious and bashful when on her period. As if ashamed for something one seventh of nearly all young women underwent at any given moment, she would step lightly and nervously look about wondering if each passing pair of eyes could see a bright red splotch on her clothes or smell the flushed uterine lining. This became such a pre-occupation at that time of the month that she daily considered substituting the placebos in her birth control pill rotation for the real ones. But this time, blood was not flowing from her vagina, but rather a thick sticky mucus that clung to the sides in hopes it would be smeared along inside. Petrified that a wet spot appeared on her tights, she consciously crossed her legs and constantly sniffed the air for possible signs of her arousal.
They continued fighting for the next half an hour until an employee nervously tapped Henry on the shoulder and politely pointed to the up-ended chairs and mopping in progress. He nodded.
“So why do you tell him it’s time to go? You could have tapped my shoulder instead! You see,” she pointed her finger at the employee as she leaned forward and rested her elbow on the table, “it’s little acts like this that perpetuate the male establishment and keep women barefoot and pregnant!”
“Oh c’mon , tell me how many stay-at-home moms are around anymore?”
“But they still do all the housework on top of a job!” They nearly went right back to it but the employee coughed angrily behind them. “FINE! Just tell HIM it’s time to go already!” She collected her sleeping bag and stormed off secretly hoping even to herself that Henry would offer his coat for her walk back. Equally angry with this woman he loathed so much going into the snowstorm in nothing but a skirt and sweatshirt, he did not give it to her even though his car was just a couple blocks away.
As he walked to the garage, the snow hitting his face was swiftly melted by the burning anger in his red cheeks. “Who does she think she is?” he asked himself rhetorically. “She’s a self righteous lesbian,” he answered. “A neo-liberal communist!” he answered again. In the short drive down the now weather hazardous beltline he used his steering wheel as a straw man with which to argue. “Oh I just hate men and society! Wah, wah, wah!” he yelled mockingly with an irritating whimper. “If women were in charge nothing bad would happen and we could all play the bongos in a world drum circle!” he continued as he came to his apartment at 10 o’clock. He swiftly undressed and collapsed onto his bed.
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