The Bald Man walks past the café for the third time in five minutes. He glances through the window – the type of glance pedestrians are prone to. It is safe to say, however, that The Bald Man is looking in the café window for other purposes. The Bald Man’s eyes widen slightly and this time, the third time, he does not keep walking but instead abruptly turns and enters the shop. A tinkling bell announces his entrance.
The Bald Man drums his stubby fingers on the countertop. ‘Hello?’
The Bald Man’s voice is slightly wheezy and is high-pitched for a man of his size. It is a fact he was conscious of all through his secondary schooling and university days, which he could only blame on the complete absence of a father figure in his life from age ten, when his father had died – through to twenty-seven – when he had met his future father-in-law. He had fallen into a kind of stupefied adoration of the man, who drank single malt whiskey and despised golf and didn’t allow his wife to boss him around because he was His Own Man.
Despite any flaws in his emotional upbringing, however, things had turned out rather well for The Bald Man. He had been married at the age of 28 to a pretty woman who didn’t object to being the principal breadwinner of the family. The couple had two children and lived in a stylish apartment in a respectable part of the city. They had shiny appliances and cream carpets, and their fridge usually stocked at least three different types of cheese. They had mutual couple friends whom they regularly threw dinner parties for – with the good cutlery – and The Bald Man had his male friends and his wife had her girlfriends and these three groups of friends did not interact. Every second year in September the family drove across town to have candid photographs taken in black and white, which were then hung in the living room.
It is this Bald Man who is standing at the counter of the café now. He is still drumming his fingers on the countertop, smiling at the young waitress as she makes his coffee. She avoids eye contact with him, and he wonders if he should let her know that one of her powder-blue bra straps is poking out from the wide neck of her t-shirt. He decides against it.