Alex stepped off the train and onto the platform of the station. As he walked briskly among the crowd towards the exit, he hummed a tune to himself, feeling a little giddy. He probably shouldn’t be cutting work like this. Yet when he got up this morning and looked out at the brightening sky outside his window, he felt an odd tingle and the idea of having to go to the office and sit in his cubicle and stare at endless pages of files suddenly seemed unbearable. So he showered, pulled on a light t-shirt and jeans and put on a pair of sneakers. No starched shirt and stuffy tie and pressed pants and shiny oxfords today. The tingle in his chest promised him that something was going to happen today and he meant to find out what it was. After a quick breakfast, he went straight to the train station on a whim, bought a ticket for the first train leaving and several hours later, here he was.
He kept on humming as he strolled down the pavement with no specific destination in mind, just enjoying the fresh air and warm morning sun. But as he walked and started to sweat, he felt his steps beginning to falter and his humming stopped. What exactly am I doing here, he wondered. He eyed other people on their way to work in their suits and with their briefcases and all of a sudden his casual outfit didn’t feel so light anymore. His mind flashed to the pile of documents waiting to be read and inspected and his mood slipped even further. What the hell am I doing, acting like some hormonal teenager following a goddamn tingle? He felt ridiculous and his springy steps became slow and pensive.
Reaching the end of the street, the flapping wings of a pair of birds distracted his darkening thoughts. They flew overhead and perched on the branch of a nearby tree. He stopped and watched them for a while, listening to them cooing to each other. He thought they were turtle doves but he wasn’t sure. Turtle doves mate for life, his memory supplied, unrelated though it was to the proper identification of the species. Huh, he mused, wonder where that bit of information came from. He absently shook his head and continued walking, seriously contemplating catching a train back and going to the office to salvage the rest of his day. As he turned the corner, he took a glance back at the birds and crashed right into someone.
“Oh shit.” He blurted. “I mean, sorry.” Then he looked at the guy and just stared, feeling a second tingle in his chest that morning. Huh, his mind said, cute.
“Um… Are you okay?” the guy asked.
Alex blinked at that. “Huh? Oh, yeah I’m okay.”
The guy crouched down and started collecting the books that fell and scattered on the pavement. “Oh hey, let me help you with that.” Alex followed suit and started picking up books as well, handing them to the guy when they stood back up.
“Thanks.” He said, throwing Alex a grin. Again, Alex just stared at him, feeling foolish but couldn’t help himself.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” the guy queried. “I didn’t hit you that hard, no?” he laughed.
Alex gave himself a mental whop upside the head. Speak, stupid. “I am. Really.” He managed to stammer.
“Well alright, then. Thanks.” The guy said as he walked away, giving Alex another toothy grin. Before he turned the corner, he glanced back and said, “Oh by the way, happy Valentine’s day.”
Alex stood there, processing what just happened. Getting tongue tied and flustered didn’t happen to him. Well, aside from the times he got called in to see his boss but that’s for a totally different reason. This was new. It was weird, but a good kind of weird, if that makes any sense. He contemplated the feeling. Might as well, he decided. Maybe he can invite the guy for coffee or something. He took a breath and jogged around the corner, determined to catch up to him. As it turned out he didn’t have far to go.
The guy was standing pretty much where Alex had stood before, looking up at the birds still cooing to each other in the tree. As Alex slowed his steps and approached, the guy looked his way. “Hey.” The guy hesitated before smiling. “You’re not here because you changed your mind and decided to sue for damages, no?”
“Uh… No.” Alex stuttered. For some reason he found that lilting ‘no’ at the end of the guy’s sentences cute, and that thought didn’t help calm his nerves down any. “Um… I didn’t reply when you said happy Valentine’s day, so… um…” The guy cocked his head and stared at him like he was trying not to laugh. He supposed he looked pretty silly spluttering about like an idiot. “Um… Happy Valentine’s day. And again, sorry.” Alex turned away and was about to go, cringing inside at the impression he was making.
“Do you know that turtle doves mate for life?” the guy suddenly uttered.
Tingle, Alex’s chest went again. “Uh what?” Alex managed to get out.
“Those birds. Turtle doves.” The guy pointed at the pair. “I think I read somewhere that they stay together until one of them dies.” Then he looked at Alex expectantly, like he was waiting for a response.
“You want to get coffee?” Alex blurted out. Fully aware that it wasn’t the appropriate response or one the guy was expecting, judging from the way he was silently raising his eyebrows.
“Uh…” He took a long breath to compose himself. “Look, I swear I’m not some psycho or anything. Please let me start over. My name’s Alex. I’m guessing I probably should’ve started with that.”
The guy shifted his books and grasped his extended hand. “Gabriel.” He had a warm hand, Alex noted. “And that’s okay.” He shot Alex an amused look. “You have an interesting approach.”
“So, now that we’ve been properly introduced, how about that coffee?” Alex continued with a smile, finally feeling more comfortable and confident. At least the guy’s not running away screaming.
Gabriel guffawed. “You’re not only interesting but persistent.” At the sound, the doves flapped away and they both looked up to follow the progress of their flight. “Sure. That sounds great.” Gabriel said, drawing Alex’s attention back to him. “I should probably get a cup of tea instead, though. Been feeling this odd tingle in my chest all morning.”
Alex’s smile brightened. Well, he conceded privately, maybe following tingles is not such a bad idea after all.