Something happened when, in a coffee shop, alone as usual, he heard a girl loudly exclaim, “Sex is for losers, we should sew our legs together and become mermaids!” He couldn’t help but half laugh, half scoff at her until she turned around, hearing him. She walked towards him, and placed her black nail polished hands on his head, one finger at a time. She smelled like Madelines and menthols. She announced to the rest of the patrons, “See– Joseph agrees with me!” He blankly looked at her while everyone clapped. She knelt down, her black locks grazing his neck and whispered, “Thank you, Joseph.”
But his name wasn’t Joseph and he tried to tell her so, but she hardly glanced at him while bluntly stating she didn’t really care, that Joseph would be his name from now on, she’s Mary, and someday they’d have a baby without having sex because her legs were shut together from being a mermaid. After that he dropped his given birth name, Trapper, and was known to everyone thereafter as Joseph. Mary was Mary.
Joseph never went to the coffee shop without one or two tattered books and a notebook, but it was never had to do with coffee, pastries, or all-night availability; it was an need to be with others, to have a communal reach, to be around a din of background noise of a group of voices of various timbres, to feel included. His dark hair and air possessed a type of attraction fueled primarily by mystery, and there was never a real time in which he lacked for company, from both sexes. Curiosity claimed most of these seekers as they found in time their questions unfulfilled and sometimes negative, as the lack of life Joseph showed made these superficial relationships sour. This was not for lack of wanting a connection; he just didn’t know how.
About ten years before he met a girl—he couldn’t remember her name now or her face, but she must have been somewhat attractive. Only that she was nice and was fun to listen to and be around. They didn’t anything too exciting but they had met on the RTD on the 3rd street route, number 16—Funny, he realized, that he was able to immediately remember a defunct route number than a name. She came over several times to watch movies and they tried cheap but popular restaurants and he thought she liked him. Once after a movie she’d asked what he wanted to do next, and he asked back: Do you want to fuck? In the way someone would ask their guest if they wanted a glass of water upon entrance. Right away he realized he said something wrong but she stayed, yet not talking much, so he thought he was safe. She hugged him when she left as usual. And he did not hear back from her again.
So he stopped asking bluntly and retreated back into his tortoise shell, and waited, until someone could light him so bad he’d leave the shell in a heartbeat.