Chapter Fifty-Eight: “I’m going to get SARS for sure”

Iggy worked at what she was fairly certain was the most pretentious coffee shop in the world. It was independently run, everything was free trade and organic, and they served everything possible in a mason jar. Her manager Blake, and the owner of the shop, had once decided that they should serve even the vegan baked goods in mason jars, which meant that people had a hell of a time trying to eat their black bean brownies and coconut ice cream from the depths of a mason jar with a short antique spoon.

Blake had decided that the coffee shop should cater even more to the hipster population of Roehampton. Initially, Iggy had been skeptical that that would even be possible. They already had that market pretty much cornered, hence the mason jars and baked goods made of vegetables and legumes. He proved her wrong though, opening up the coffee shop to live musical acts every Thursday night. It was a kind of open mic travesty that Iggy was hoping to avoid at all costs. And then he went ahead and scheduled her every Thursday night.

If Iggy had to make an estimation, she would hazard that ninety-nine per cent of the musicians that performed were absolute garbage. Most of it was very difficult to sit through and the rest was pretentious beyond all point of reason. One girl played atonal, improvised songs on a mandolin for two straight hours. Sometimes she added in some spoken word poetry. By the time her set came to an end, Iggy was just about ready to poison her ginger and wheatgrass tea. There was another band that had a literal jug and a spoon player. Iggy was on the brink of quitting that night. She might’ve gone through with it if Blake had been around for her to hand her notice to.

On top of the musical acts sent from hell to personally devastate her, it was also the middle of what Iggy liked to call the “Sneezes and Diseases” season.  Everybody had a cold. She washed her hands so frequently that they began to crack. She served one lady who sneezed into her open hand and then used that hand to pass money over to Iggy, who tried very, very hard to restrain herself from pulling any faces or making any comments. It was only a matter of time before she grew grievously ill as well. She might as well begin bathing with lepers.

“I can hear people breathing on me,” Iggy complained one night after work, having stopped by Jacklyn’s apartment to visit her. “If I can hear them breathing, they’re too close. I’m going to get SARS for sure.”

“SARS, Iggy?” Jacklyn replied, as if Iggy was the only one being ridiculous. Meanwhile, Jacklyn had just spent the previous twenty minutes ranting about how her roommate’s fitness level was ruining her life. Apparently there was some correlation between Jocelyn’s low resting heartbeat and Jacklyn’s extreme anger that Iggy would not have thought plausible.

“Well, I used to joke about ebola, but then that became a serious crisis and I had to stop,” Iggy returned. “I’m not completely insensitive.”

“No, just mostly,” Jacklyn rolled her eyes.

The next Thursday, Iggy got sneezed on while she was bracing herself for the night’s musical act. It was a band from the UK. She assumed they were even shittier than the usual acts because they had turned to Canada as a last resort. Blake told her that they’d had limited success in their hometown and had come to Roehampton to try their luck. Iggy did not have high hopes, and that was even before one of them sneezed on her left cheek. He was in line, trying to decide what beverage to order. Blake said each musician only got one free drink per night and this guy wanted to make sure it was a good one. He stared at the board where everything was listed, written in chalk obviously, until Iggy could basically feel her life slipping away. She looked back as well to help him choose something, which was when the sneeze occurred. She hadn’t seen it coming, focussing instead on the board, so she couldn’t do anything to prevent it. By the time she realized what was happening, it was too late.

“Oh Christ,” he said as soon as it had happened and Iggy took small solace in the fact that he was just as horrified as she was. “Sorry, love.”

Iggy cringed and tried to work out whether or not wiping her face would make it better or worse. She’d have to use either her hand or the front of her apron. Both seemed like bad calls. On the other hand, just letting someone else’s spit linger on her face for an indefinite period of time also wasn’t very desirable. She was trying to work out if she could conceivably slip away to the bathroom for a moment, turning to take a look at how long the line was, when she saw the guy for the first time. He was incredibly handsome. In fact, he was the third most handsome man she’d seen in real life, right after Lawrence and Jacklyn’s hot “neighbour” Amare. This guy was ruggedly handsome and he had a definite musician quality about him, the kind of vibe that clearly said he was unwashed, but in a cool way. He had crinkly blue eyes, a scruffy beard, and a smile that was nothing short of devastating. She felt immediately stupid for thinking that, but it was true nonetheless.

“It’s cool,” Iggy replied even though it wasn’t and thirty seconds previously it had even been horrifying.

“I’m with the band,” he said unnecessarily, gesturing dismissively over his shoulder where his bandmates were setting up at the front of the coffee shop. “My name’s Desmond. You can look for me behind the drum kit if you lose me later. All I ask is that you don’t get lost in my eyes.”

It was a dumb thing to say and it didn’t even really make sense, but she was weirdly getting lost in his eyes already. They were so blue. She began to understand what Bernie felt like every time she was with Lawrence and couldn’t stop staring at his eyes. They were only eyes. Eyes weren’t even that impressive. Plus she was in a relationship with Miles and she shouldn’t have been so interested in another man’s eyes anyway. She tore her gaze away, reminding herself that his band was undoubtedly garbage and successfully managed to move on with her life. He finally chose a drink, which she made without any problems, and then moved on to the next customer in line.

She realized she really was in trouble when the band began playing their set. The band was a four-piece rock group called The Wicked Nuns. They had a thirteen-song set of original music. Every song was named for a different woman, except for the one about Glasgow and even that one was really about a woman named Belinda who had an eye patch. While Desmond remained the most attractive member by far, the rest of the band was also pretty good-looking. They were also surprisingly good so the audience was roughly eight times more engaged than every other Thursday mic night. Blake was beyond ecstatic, so thrilled with response that he asked The Wicked Nuns to return the following Thursday night and the one after that. Iggy got the impression that if Desmond and his bandmates continued to wink at female members of the audience, they’d be getting more than one free drink a night. They’d probably end up with an indefinite position as the shop’s band every Thursday until the end of time. Or at least until eating things from mason jars became blasé.

“I’m doomed,” Iggy moaned to Priscilla later that night. Tallulah was out with her new boyfriend and Bernie was in her room finishing up some work.

“You don’t have to date him, you know,” Priscilla said, rolling her eyes. “Just because his eyes and his accent are dreamy doesn’t mean you automatically have to date him.”

“Okay,” Iggy replied weakly. It was a fair point, but she’d had trouble with musicians in the past. She was a cliché that way; they were her one weakness.

“I say this mostly because you’re dating Miles. You remember Miles, right?” Priscilla continued, rolling her eyes again. “Nice guy, boring job, bears an uncanny resemblance to Scott Baio.”

“He doesn’t look that much like Scott Baio,” Iggy protested, huffing.

“False,” Priscilla retorted immediately. “They look more alike than Lindsay Lohan did as two separate people in The Parent Trap.”

Iggy rolled her eyes this time.

“Come on Thursday and save me,” she demanded.

No,” Priscilla returned.

She ended up coming anyway.

As always, The Wicked Nuns opened their set with their song “Maureen”, a song about a woman who dominates in arm wrestling competitions. Priscilla sat on one of the stools at the coffee bar next to Iggy and watched the band. Angus, the redheaded bass player, was winking at every woman who happened to fall into his line of vision.

“Do you think he has some sort of condition?” Priscilla asked, nodding to Angus. “Is he doing that on purpose? Or did he actually mean to hit on that woman in the purple blouse and who I can only assume is her mother?”

“I think he’s being cheeky,” Iggy answered.

“Well he looks deranged,” Priscilla returned. She wasn’t exactly wrong.

At the end of the first set, Desmond came up to the register to get another free drink. Blake had in fact decreed that they could have whatever they wanted, the result being that Iggy had been asked to make increasingly outlandish caffeinated beverages in mason jars as the night wore on. Desmond asked her for a chocolate and caramel frappuccino with whipped cream and three maraschino cherries.

“You know maraschino cherries are disgusting, right?” Priscilla asked him as he stood and waited for his drink to be made.

“Well aren’t you outspoken and delightful,” he said, rounding on her with a smile. Iggy stopped blending just to be able to observe the interaction more clearly.

“Stop that,” Priscilla said immediately.

“I can’t. It’s in my nature,” Desmond replied. Priscilla mimed gagging.

“Are you kidding with this?” She asked, turning to Iggy.

“He has very nice eyes,” Iggy defended herself, ignoring the fact that Desmond was right in front of them both. He looked back and forth between the two of them, clearly amused.

“No, he has eyes,” Priscilla corrected. “Do you know how many people have eyes? Nearly everyone. You have eyes, I have eyes, Oprah has eyes. You know who else has eyes? Scott Baio and Lindsay Lohan.”

Iggy narrowed her eyes at her, but turned back to continue making the drink, appropriately shamed.

“I think I’ve lost the plot a little here,” Desmond cut in. “Are we all naming people we know have eyes? Elijah Wood, Dolly Parton, Morgan Freeman, Martin Freeman…uh…all of Coldplay.”

“Ugh, Coldplay,” Priscilla returned.

“Oh Christ, I know, right?” Desmond replied. And then Iggy watched in mild awe as Desmond managed to charm Priscilla by talking about his deep loathing for Coldplay.

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