The mandatory “Red Rooster” employee uniform was too ugly to be designed on purpose. It made people look worse than the nature intended for the inherently distasteful color scheme, if that was even possible: blood red hats and shirts with yellow letters and some completely idiotic black pants with red stripes, highlighting the pockets, like the whole place froze in time in the 60s, but with bad Technicolor.
He was surprised anybody even came into the small restaurant to buy food. Yet, here he was sitting at the corner table. The man always came at night, when there was less chance of being noticed. He watched her for days.
He usually liked petite women with light skin, but she stood out from all the unattractively blend and similar in their height, body type, and dark complexion girls he encountered everywhere he looked. She was taller than others, her curves were softer, her demeanor quieter. It seemed she chose to be unnoticed, to fade into background, letting the rest of the loud and brightly dressed women take the the front stage. If he saw her on the street, he would not have noticed her, but watching her day by day, she felt more and more familiar and like a friend to him.
Her voice was girlish, yet of a woman. She seemed dorky and reserved. Only when she laughed, her face opened up and her eyes twinkled. But she did not laugh often, only when she would read something on her Ipod, she secretly was checking all the time, turning away from coworkers and customers alike. Her laughter was kind and a bit shy.
He found out her name, “Giselle”, very pretty and fitting – feminine and sensual, assured, yet fragile, and mysterious, just like the girl herself, who obviously did not belong in this godforsaken joint. He did not approach her. The man was not looking for anything in particular, he was here to escape from his reality.
He left home because he was looking for an illusive something, but ultimately, after a week in hot paradise, he started to gain back his usual sense of practicality. What was he thinking coming here? That this would be the one place on earth to find what he was looking for? So deciding not to bother with unattainable and just use the time to relax, he simply wanted to people watch and play the games on his phone.
This particular visitor to the island was not into partying or chasing girls, anyway. He was lucky: he knew it well enough and was not conceited, just realistic – he was handsome, very much so. This man had many fans, mostly young girls, screaming for him; and there were plenty of women of any age, race, and shape who would be happy to go out with him. So he would take his pick when he is ready. Dating was not in his plans for the nearest future – he wanted to perfect his craft and to become professionally established. He did not want to just date because it was expected of him at his age. It was his personal little rebellion that nobody knew about it.
“I smell like chicken,” the woman said softly with disdain. He chuckled lowering his head, covered with a baseball cap, and a well-defined dimple popped up on his cheek, as if winking at an accidental spectator. He was given titles of the “the sexiest man” by various polls in magazines and internet websites, which were swarming with his pictures. His face was easily recognized at least on one of the continents. The popularity did not bother him - he liked the perks, but he was not abusing it either.
Leaning forward, he propped himself against the wall with an outstretched arm,and allowed the water to wash over his head, dripping down from his hair that was covering his eyes and face. The man stood there for a while, and was surprised how the warmth of the water and its gentle caresses made something grow and open up inside his soul. The tears crept up, exploding inside of him and the depth of the hidden emotions shook his very core, screaming out and making him hit the wall. Crouching, he was sitting under the running shower, covering his head, ashamed of his own tears which came out of nowhere, like a flood.
This beloved celebrity was crying so hard for himself and his life that just happened to him without him noticing. Why was he like that? Why was he weeping naked in the shower, while he had everything anybody ever wished for themselves. This powerful despair apparently was always inside, but never had a reason to be known till this morning. He had to run away, escape to an island where he would be as anonymous as the next person, where he could be himself again, where he can reevaluate his life that just took over him, while he went along with everything, like a good filial boy he was.
“My son, are you all right?” he heard his mother knocking on the door of the bathroom.
“Yes, Mom, just taking a shower. Don’t worry,” he forced himself to sound OK. He could pull out any emotion on cue, he could produce any feeling so believable, that he himself at times was amazed at his abilities. But his life lacked the depth or the passion of the emotions he portrayed. His life was so empty and so… blah. He wanted to feel what his characters felt, he wanted to live on the edge, to live day to day, feeling all of the things normal people feel – love, anger, despair, passion, hatred.
The man often felt happy and was content with basic pleasures of life – spending time with the family, hanging out with his friends. He was an easygoing guy and laughed at simple jokes. He occasionally had a crush on an actress he worked with, just because he did not really get to spend time with girls otherwise. Those crushes made him excited and rejuvenated and he would smile all the time while the infatuation lasted. But then the strength of the feelings would fade and he’d get busy with projects and other responsibilities, and would be single again. Never properly having dated, never in love.
It was not really true. He was in love once, before he became famous, when he was just a regular student, in college. This girl, she was pretty, pretty in his eyes, and she smiled at him and she understood him. They used to seat on the grass and study together and eat kimbap and drink sweet drinks. They would kiss under a tree and hide in the shadows of the building to make out. They would press together under an umbrella, when it rained and hug on the bus ride home. They had their time and then they drifted apart. He was sad, even heartbroken. He did not know what he did wrong, but she no longer smiled just for him. So he missed the feeling of being in love all the time. He just forgot about it for a while. But in the shower, where a mixture of the water and the vapor mist that enveloped him made this longing wake up, he wanted his heart to cry and laugh again, just like at that time.
He arranged for a travel agent to bring him brochures and with his eyes closed picked one from a thick pile – Puerto Rico. He packed lightly and booked a first flight to this country across the ocean, whatever it was, it seemed to be pleasant enough for swimming, hiking and overall hanging out casually, far enough from Asia and all the fans who recognized him.
He witnessed this scene a couple of times already. Giselle would punch out her card at the small machine sticking on the wall, and looking at her Ipod, head outside. She took off the ugly hat, letting her black straight hair fall freely on her shoulders and ran her fingers through it, as if a ritual to mark the time to be herself, not a chicken selling mindless robot. Her eyes looking at a distance, thinking about something, then picking up her little Ipod and typing and typing… And then she would get a text message, he presumed, because she would stare intently at the screen and her face that was relaxed a moment before, would tense up, making a tiny wrinkle form between her thick eyebrows.
He liked this word “frown”. She frowned a lot, when she was upset, angry or thoughtful. He could tell the difference after studying her for this long. He could see her very well through the glass windows of the restaurant. She went to the corner of the parking lot where a man, a bit taller than her, quite bulky and muscular, a typical Hispanic macho-looking male, met her. They would have a conversation, which he, of course, could not hear, but she looked bashful and kept smiling, lashes lowered and her eyes not daring to look at him for too long.
The man knew of the effect he had on her. He played the role well, touching her shoulders and lifting her chin, he gave her small pecks on the cheek, all the while it was obvious her lips were in need of a kiss, which he omitted. He also held her hands and looked at her with something between lust and interest, but there was no adoration in them. He gave the girl a hug and her body, clung to him, eager to be touched, his hands running down her back and even slightly touching below, just enough to have her tense in response with desire, not answered. The guy was a jerk without a doubt, because after all of that, he would produce a white teethed smile, parting from her and waving. She stood there like an abandoned by her owner puppy, still waiting for him to turn around to come back and pick her up, cuddling against his chest and taking her home, but he instead got in the car and sped out with tires screeching. Her whole body would sink and her eyes no longer had that beautiful spark in them. A few times a handsome observer saw her wipe off a tear, but, maybe, something just got into her eye.
Her shift usually ended around 9 o’clock and after changing into jeans and a t-shirt, her silky hair pulled into a long ponytail, she would emerge from the back entrance and walk to her car, carrying a bag with her things and Ipod in hand.
After she would leave, he would feel like it was time for him to go as well. Hailing a taxi, he would return back to his beach-side home, which he rented for his vacation. It was quite isolated, at the end of the dirt road and at night it was pitch black, so he always gave an extra tip to the taxi driver for the trouble.
Once there, he would sit on the shore, taking the shoes off, sinking his toes into the sand, hugging his long legs, relaxing his chin on the knees and watching the dark waves advance and recede. The ocean was mesmerizing, the nights were warm, often hot and humid, but the ocean wind cooled the air enough to make it bearable and even pleasant.
He liked to think about nothing, simply being. He enjoyed the anonymity this strange place offered. But he was lonely. He kept his phone off on purpose and asked his family to only contact him in case of emergency. They respected his needs and gave him the well deserved privacy.
This girl’s eyes bothered him lately, especially after tonight. He was almost sure that jerk made her cry. He imagined himself like one of the heroes he played in the movies, swooping in to save the girl from… but nobody attacked or hurt her physically. The girl and the jerk probably were some kind of lovers or something along the lines, he could not tell.
He was talented with reading and understanding feelings. He easily empathized with people’s emotions and made others instantly comfortable around him. He even had a nickname “King of Chemistry”, because all of his female partners on screen had amazing chemistry with him, making him rise quickly as a romantic star. How come in his life there was no chemistry between him and others or why has not he formed a real connection to anyone?
He could tell that she was more into the guy, than that jerk was into her. He could also tell that the relationship was not straightforward; they were involved in this push and pull kind of dance, which he personally found bothersome and a waste of time. If he liked somebody - he did, if he did not - he did not. Simple and direct.
“Giselle,” he whispered a pretty name of hers. “Giselle.” He looked up at the starry sky, trying to figure out where she was and what she was doing at this moment. Was she also sitting somewhere by the ocean looking up at the sky? Whose name was she calling?
His thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of laughter and he heard rapidly approaching noises, revealing a couple walking on the wet strip of the shore. They could not see him in the dark just as he could not distinguish their faces either. He heard them talking as they came closer and stopped right in front of him, still under the impression they were alone. The girl quickly stripped of her clothes and the man followed, jumping in the warm waters of the night ocean. They did not go far in, swimming and laughing and pretty soon they ran out, with the guy catching his girlfriend from the back, they stopped, kissing. They got into it pretty heavy, falling to the ground and obviously continuing to something more exciting as their moans and sounds coming from that direction made the spectator feel like he should not be here any longer. He quietly picked up his shoes and turned toward his house. The motion lights responded to his movement and a strong projector flooded the beach in the front. The couple lifted up, both startled, and he could see the man’s face really well, the girl covered herself quickly and got up. That was the jerk from the chicken place for sure and the girl was … not Giselle.
They all stared at each other and then the jerk looking mad started toward the tall and slender man who was standing in the spotlight. He was screaming something in Spanish, trying to threaten the weird pervert and angry that their intimate moment had been discovered. The resident of the house turned and continued on his way as the jerk was pulled back by his girlfriend, probably, convincing him to let it go and avoid the fight. The lights turned off as abruptly and the darkness covered the beach again.