by Anna Hayes
He is instantly noticeable as he ambles along the street, umbrella hooked over his arm, carefully observing his surroundings.
The street is an explosion of colour, smells and sounds, with stalls running through the centre of it. She loves sitting outside her favourite cafe, drinking her coffee and watching the world go by.
When he walks past her for a third time, in his rich navy suit and sparkling white runners, she knows he is lost.
She watches as he tries to stop a woman for directions but she side-steps him with all the agility of a ballet dancer, weaving around him without breaking stride. He stares after her, dumbstruck, before bowing his head and continuing on up the street.
He goes into her cafe but returns less than a minute later, his face contorted into a sort of anguish too ugly to fit on his cherubic features.
She catches his eye and beckons him over.
‘Where are you looking for?’ she asks.
He looks relieved and shows her an address on a piece of paper.
‘Job interview?’ she asks and he nods eagerly. He’s about 22 but seems like he’s from a different era entirely.
She asks if he’d put it into his phone, and he produces an old model that’s being sold now for its nostalgia factor.
‘Woah, that’s an antique,’ she says and he laughs, saying he doesn’t like how modern technology has turned everyone into bumbling drones, tussling into each other on streets and laughing at the same, homogenized memes.
‘That said, it would be handy now…’ he says.
She pulls her own phone from her pocket.
‘Come on, I’ll walk you. I don’t think it’s far,’ she says.
‘Can I pay for your coffee?’ he asks and she tells him it’s already paid for, by scanning her phone on the machine.
He lets out an exasperated sigh.
She’s correct, the location isn’t far and they fall into friendly chit-chat.
‘I like being able to switch off from the world,’ he explains.
‘I wish I could do that,’ she says wistfully.
‘You do. I walked past you four times and every single one of them you were staring blissfully into space.’
She blushes a little at having been noticed, mumbling something about people-watching.
‘Yeah, and that was how you noticed that I was lost,’ he says as her phone beeps to tell them that their location is on the right.
‘Yeah, well, it takes one to know one,’ she says enigmatically and he nods, smiling as he checks the company name on the door.
‘Good luck with your interview,’ she says politely and he thanks her, remarking that if he’s successful she might see him around.
‘Yeah,’ she replies, ‘if you ever find your way back.’
He laughs and pushes through the door.
The drop of water on her screen tells her that rain, which had been forecast, is imminent. It does not tell her that she has left her umbrella at the cafe.