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Wasted Words
Author: Staci Hart




OKAY, MAYBE not full-blown, tell-the-future, Madame Esmeralda or anything, but with little more than a glance, I could tell you a number of things about a person, from the types of books they read to their favorite drink.

I’d always sorted people, just like books in the Dewey Decimal System, where everything had its place. Geeks with geeks. Chic with chic. For instance, when I first met my roommate, Tyler, I instantly knew several things to be true. He’d played sports — football I’d guessed — any man that tall and built would be crazy not to use his body for sports. He’d recently been dumped, determined by the fact that he’d come to live with me with little more than a suitcase full of clothes and a couple of boxes. And as for his favorite drink, I’d pegged him for a beer drinker. That one was just a hunch, but I’d put my money on it, and I was right.

I only used my powers for good, making matches between people I knew or strangers I encountered, planting little seeds, nudging them together. Not physically nudge them — as a five-foot-two dork in glasses, weighing in at a buck-oh-five soaking wet, I couldn’t even open some doors without grunting. But I could see patterns between people, and with a well-placed word or maybe a little bit of well-meaning manipulation, I could get people in each other’s line of sight long enough for them to actually see each other.

Although, at the end of the day, I really did it because I was in love with love.

There’s something terribly satisfying about imagining two people falling in love and then witnessing it. To know that you had a hand in them finding someone to love, especially when you hadn’t found love yourself. Not that I wasn’t looking, but my love life had been sort of nonexistent for a long time. It felt safer that way.

Besides, it’s easier to see everyone else’s business than your own, and I was perfectly happy with setting up everyone I could.

My job at Wasted Words was equal parts manager, comic book dealer, bartender, and matchmaker — the last being my favorite part of the job. Mixing up the comic boys and romance girls who came in had become my favorite hobby. I ran singles night, which was the easiest place to make magic, and bartending was another avenue to making love connections. I’d been doing it since college, making matches, but ever since I’d been hired to help open and run Wasted Words, I’d upped my stats exponentially.

It was almost too easy. Fish in a barrel, and all that. Meeting people in New York wasn’t easy, and the concept for our bar — which was also a coffee shop and bookstore, featuring an extensive comic collection — brought in an eclectic group of clientele. We had everything from corporate lawyers looking for hentai, more commonly known as tentacle porn, to teenage girls browsing our massive romance aisles. There were the college kids, especially from Columbia, as we were pretty close to campus, and then of course the standard stereotypical romance reading cat ladies and the super nerdy comic guys. Those were the easiest to match up.

For instance, there was a girl at the other end of the bar — let’s call her The Reader — with her nose in a book as she sipped on her chai. As I wiped off the bar top in front of me, I noticed she flipped the pages with the speed of a lifer, probably reading since she was a little kid. Her fingers were smudged with ink or graphite, and every time she pushed up her glasses, she rubbed a little off on her nose. Noting the black notebook under the one she was reading, it seemed a safe assumption that she was an artist of some sort. Something about her — her posture maybe, almost like she was trying to make herself smaller, or her clothes, loose fitting and a little out of style — told me that she wasn’t the ball-busting, go-getting type, but she was pretty, to be sure, with skin like cream and hair in a bun with heavy bangs.

A few seats over sat a guy who’d been watching The Reader around a pint of Guinness and a Japanese comic. His eyes would dart over to watch her, though she kept flipping pages, completely unaware, so absorbed in her book that she hadn’t sensed him, even with him throwing unspoken signals at her in waves. He had the look of the standard guys who frequented the comic shop where I worked before Wasted Words — awkward, tall, skinny by society’s standards at least. I thought he was adorable in his own right, with shaggy dark hair and a hoodie over a T-shirt of Batman eating ramen, framed like a comic cover and titled in Japanese characters that said Batman and Ramen. It’s delicious.

I imagined her looking up at him and smiling, then him moving down to talk to her. Then he’d ask her out, they’d exchange numbers, and she would blush sweetly. They’d go to dinner, talk about books and life, he’d kiss her in front of her door. And then marriage and babies and the whole lot.

I sighed dreamily.

Batman could have had a solid shot at The Reader with nothing more than a breath of self-confidence, but that was always the trick. He didn’t have any, and neither did she. Which was where I came in.

My roommate, Tyler, chuffed at me. “Leave them be, Cam.”

I narrowed my eyes at him playfully. “Don’t tell me what to do, Tyler.”

He laughed and shook his head, and all I could do was smile across the bar at him. Tyler sat in the seat he always took, near the back of the horseshoe bar where he kept me company at work. He was six feet, six inches of absolute man with friendly, warm eyes, a smile like stadium lights, and a jaw that was straight out of an Abercrombie ad. I freaking hate Abercrombie, but I’d buy everything they sold if Tyler were on the billboard in his underwear.

What a catch, right? Thing was, his fish and my fish didn’t even live in the same pond. No, his pond was full of cheerleaders and beauty queens, models and girls who also belong on Abercrombie ads and … I don’t know. Not me, that was for sure. Don’t get me wrong — I wasn’t butthurt about it or anything. It was just one of those facts of life. Nerdy girls wearing flannel and Death Star T-shirts brandishing the quote That’s no moon don’t date gorgeous ex-tight ends. They date video game testers and baristas who moonlight at Magic: The Gathering tournaments. Guys who blow their money on cosplay outfits and PC upgrades.

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