For all intents and purposes - other than his - the place was a coffee shop.
Amber glow and warm liquids and friendly voices, and he would conduct his interviews here. One by one, day by day, evening by evening, over cups of coffee that ranged from lattes to mochas to the cheaper 'house specials' that the barista knew he would ask for. A grin, a wink, a polite "And what will you have? These guys make great coffee", and they would be hooked.
But of course, it would depend on him, whether he would reel them in or not.
He was finicky. Not in the sense that snooty people are. His detractors and friends always said that he slept with anything that walked. He would smile and agree. He was a player. If he played you right, and you responded to some degree, he would be equally hooked. After the three hours or so it took to satiate him, he would ask you ever so politely to leave his apartment, just a block away from the amber coloured coffee shop. And his chemistry was such that, you would probably call or sms him a couple of days later, asking for a rematch, even though you knew he was never the kind who repeated his tricks.
So he would make it a point to reach the coffee shop fifteen minutes before the appointed time, and settle into his chair, the table which overlooked the road outside, and grin at the barista for his usual - a cheaper 'special' to tide him over till his trick arrived. Sometimes, he would run his eyes over the rest of people in the store, and if he saw a specimen that turned him on, he would stare fixedly, till the object of his gaze would look up, and he would smile. Just like that. Sometimes it helped to fix another date for the next day. Sometimes, it would result in nothing at all. But that was ok. He was familiar with the rules of the game.
Rule One was that nobody wins all the time. There's no such thing as a perfect run, and he was game for that. He was game for the thrill of wondering whether he would win or not. And if he lost, he never took it to heart. Because he knew, in another day, week, month or year, he would be back in front of the game, he would smile in a new avatar, and the game might not be that resilient. Sometimes, he loved the fact that his friends thought he was terribly cold. For his part, he couldn't understand how they could be so... restrictive.
There was the first candidate, and his eyes would grin at him. He would make a mental note and approve of the open shirt, the speck of tanned skin at the neck that looked amazingly delicious. He would move his hand forward and touch a forearm in a pretense to get at the sugar packets. They would laugh, and he would move his chair in closer. The joke would be silly. Something about how dumb the hero of the latest Bollywood flick looked while performing his Spiderman moves, but there would be something terribly charming about how the player made his move that made the game laugh. And blush, when the player made his own pleasure boldly apparent.
Rule Two was that everyone likes being flattered on a date. That's the easiest way to get them to take off their clothes.
But then clothes are terribly over-rated, she thought, smiling at the prey sitting opposite her, trying not to look at the horrendous zebra print shirt. It's what I want underneath the clothes thatâ€™s important, she giggled to herself in a fit of girly sluttishness, and flushed a bit in a move that was calculated to get the prey feeling a tad hot in the air-conditioned coffee shop.
Clothes are terribly over-rated in the sense that she never bothered to dress up too much for her tricks. She was meeting them evening after evening, coffee after coffee, because she wanted to, and a girl can't get dressed up all the time, she reasoned. So she would walk over from her office which was a short walk away from the coffee shop, play with her hair, undo the jacket, apply some brief gloss, and she would be perfect. It was the way she handled herself. The confidence, the poise, the combination of good girl and bad girl that made men turn their heads when she walked by. The elan when she crossed her legs, when she arrived at the coffee shop fifteen minutes before the appointed time, at her favourite table that was closest to the barista's counter. That way, she could look clearly at everyone who entered the store, and she could amuse herself by flirting with the barista in the meantime. They played a game, she and the barista: he would pretend to know her name, and she would pretend to give it to him, but of course she would change it every day he asked her. She wondered briefly, when she saw the barista flush and dimple, whether she should get a trick with him sometime, but then abandoned the idea: it would unnecessarily complicate matters.
Rule Three was that a player's arena must be a neutral zone. The player cannot toy with any of the original elements therein, as that would lead to complications. The perfect playing ground is hard to find - it can't be too empty or too full or too remote or too prominent or too dim or too lit up or too open or too closed - and once a player finds his or her ground, the player tries not to fuck it up by messing around with the neutral elements.
So she would flirt with the barista, smile at him, touch his wrist when he would serve her coffee, but then never look at him afterwards, be suitably sweet when paying the bill but always leaving a tip and never giving him the opportunity to ask her out.
The flirting had additional advantages. If her Trick Of The Day was a good candidate - good shoes, great clothes, great smile, good build, no bad breath, with a car and a place where they could be uninterrupted for two hours - a brief flirting usually got them further intrigued. Men love slutty women. Men love to have sex with slutty women. And she used that to her advantage. The idea was to be a classy slut. The idea was to smile just so that her trick would think, she's going out of my hand right now, if I don't take her for a drive in my Merc right now, buy her flowers, and o god I want that ass! And the flirting was a great diversion in case the trick turned out to be disappointing and she had to ditch him: the server is my boyfriend, and I didnâ€™t think heâ€™d be working today but he is, so it's best that you leave right now or he'll smash your brain to a pulp.
Rule Four was that there is nothing like the hint of competition to get a man exceedingly horny or exceedingly scared.
But of course he had noticed her for a long time now. Sometimes, when he would come in early and survey the crowd, and there she would be sitting, legs crossed, flirting with the barista, and he would smirk to himself before looking out the window again to search out his game. Sometimes, while talking to his game, his eyes would linger on her, where she sat, and they would appreciate her long tanned legs, and the stilettos that seemed to make his heart beat faster. He would smile absentmindedly, especially if his game for the day was boring, demented or just ugly, and somehow, looking at her with her tricks, he would be inspired to come up with great excuses to dump his depressing game.
My boss just called, there's an important contract I have to prepare back at the office.
This coffee tastes like shit, I think I'm going to be sick now.
Do you mind if I visit the loo?
I'm feeling hungry. I think maybe I should ditch coffee and have lunch. You've already eaten, right?
My flatmate is locked out of the apartment and is waiting for me to go and let him in right now.
That was my mum on the phone - we have unexpected (but important) guests at home, and I have to rush right now.
Rule Five was that you never looked too closely at a dumped trick's face when you made your excuse: you flailed your arms, looked a bit lost and disappointed, gathered your bag, paid your half of the bill, and rushed out. Pronto.
Of course, other than the great inspiration she provided him with, he didn't fail to notice that she was with a new trick every day at the coffee shop, and he would grin to himself. She's a player, like me, he would think, and he would feel something that was a weird combination of the sexual and the non-sexual titillate him. It was difficult to put his finger on it. And he would look at her. And her loser tricks. And her hot tricks. And he would go to bed with his hot game. And dump the lame ones.
Rule Six was that Darwin had it abso-fuckin-lutely right, and the Creationists have lousy missionary style sex.
Rule Seven was to make the tricks and games of the world think they're this Someone Special for the player, who can get the player to perform strange and profound acts of tenderness. Licking chocolate out of a fork, while doing so, usually helps.
So now, while her trick gaped at her and declared that experimenting and free sex were definitely the order of the day, week, month and year, she leant back onto her chair, uncrossed and recrossed her legs and smiled gratefully. He... understood her. He would also understand if she wanted another expensive frappe, wouldn't he?
Rule Eight was to make your move fast, she suddenly thought, when she stumbled on her heels, but was caught by the grip of the man who was coming over to the counter to ask for the cheque, and distinctly felt the fingers squeeze her lower back where they touched her. She knew it was the player, even before she turned around to thank him for catching her. She knew because she'd been noticing him for the past god knows how many days and weeks, and she'd known that his grip and his squeezing fingers would feel like that. She smiled to herself, and to him, when she saw the flicker and spark in his teeth and eyes when she turned around, and the rest happened like clockwork.
"Thank you. I'm fine now."
"You're very fine."
"That was - "
"- an insane compliment."
"I wanted coffee."
"Maybe you wanted more than that."
"What could I want?"
"I live nearby."
And while his game and her trick remained seated at their tables, bewildered at the brief conversation at the baristaâ€™s counter, the two players strode out the glass doors.
"We should have made love like animals," she smiled, stretching herself, poking her long legs out of the printed coverlet on his bed.
"I always make love like an animal," he replied, as her fingers traced an absurd pattern on his chest.
"You have such curly hair here," she giggled, her player mode kicking back in, "I feel like I'm in a Mills & Boons novel here. Maybe you'll turn out to be a big hairy knight or something!"
"You already met the big hairy knight," he grinned, taking her hand down to his groin.
"Hairy, at any rate," she teased, squeezing him, and he started laughing now, too, letting go of her hand.
"I should be going now, anyhow. My boss will start missing me," she sighed, stepping out naked from underneath the coverlet.
He looked at her lithe body, as she stepped into her panties, and grinned again, "Is that your favourite excuse? I usually go for the Urgent Family Call!"
She laughed again, and threw one of the Hare Ram printed satin cushions strewn on the floor at him, which he ducked. "Did I tell you how much I love your place?"
"No, you were much too busy ripping my clothes off," he retorted, pulling his drawstrings on now.
"That's because I wanted to make love like an animal today. I was so completely in the mood," she sighed wistfully.
He rearranged the thrown cushion on the divan below the bed, and his eyes twinkled when he spoke, "You knew who I was, right? I mean... How could you not know... ?"
"O, I knew, all right," she nodded, grinning, and plopped down on the bed to step into her stilettos now, "But I just didn't care. I thought - there are sparks, so let's light them. And you thought the same - otherwise, you wouldn't have brought me here!"
The player nodded in turn, and kneeled at her feet. "I like you. There's chemistry."
"Thereâ€™s chemistry," she agreed, "We're both sluts."
His smile broadened, "I love the way I am."
She ruffled his hair, "I love the way I am, too. So it's just perfect."
She got up now, picked up her handbag, and turned back, "But I really have to go now, and since you have my number and I have yours, let's catch up this Friday for drinks. I'll introduce you to this bunch of friends I'm going dancing with."
He grinned broadly and nodded happily, and she headed for the door. Looked back at him in his drawstring pants and ruffled curly hair, surrounded by his satin printed cushions, and beamed, "I love gay men!