“You’re a tall one!” The man said, catching my attention as I weaved my way through the crowded cafe dining area, busy with the lunch time rush hour. Acknowledging his comment, I smiled and sat down in a vacant seat at a small table next to his. Although struck by the broadness of his midriff, pronounced by the grubby tee-shirt stretched over his stomach, I noted he wasn’t so short himself. He beamed a smile over to me, before filling his mouth with a forkful of sausage and beans squashed together.
I made myself as comfortable as I could in a chair, which moved and creaked at each joint in the frame, challenged by my own eighty-two and a half kilograms. The queue at the front of the cafe extending from the service counter, had grown in the few minutes since my arrival. It’s August, the month when the locals who can afford to, move out as the visitors move in. I identified a high proportion of diners populating the cafe as tourists. While confounded in thought, wondering why they came here instead one of the popular high street establishments, my fellow diner delivered his second comment in my direction.
“I’d kill myself if I was short.” A simple statement delivered with nonchalance, but not one I’d ever heard said before, word-for-word.
“Really? You’d kill yourself?” I said.
“If I was short I would.” Without looking up from his plate, more English breakfast was eagerly consumed. “It’s the women, they all want a tall bloke, don’t they? Taller than themselves.” Juice from the baked beans ran down the knife he held and in a reflex action he licked his fingers, drying them on a tissue-paper serviette laid on the table next to his plate. He gave me another large smile. “It’s true, don’t you reckon? Just look around.”
“Why do you think that is?” I replied, undecided if I wanted responsibility for extending the conversation.
“Well…” leaning forward and lowering the volume of his voice a little, he said “It’s protection, they like to feel protected by their man.” His voice shrank to a whisper, “When I see a good-looking chap walking down the street who’s shorter than average, I think, poor bloke! He’s got it right in one department and badly wrong in the other.”
“But plenty of women are around five feet two, three, or four inches.” I said, feeling myself drawn deeper into an ill-prepared-for analysis. “A shortish man would still be taller than many women.”
Taking a break from his main task the man wiped his mouth using his forearm, finished chewing a mouthful of food, swallowed and hit a clenched fist hard against his chest releasing a loud belch.
“No, even small women want tall men, believe-you-me.”
The waitress arrived with my coffee, I thanked her, she gave a modest smile and returned to the kitchen. As she walked away, I estimated her as no more than five feet two inches.
“Her man works here too,” my dining companion continued, “sometimes takes your order at the counter, other times brings out the food. He’s taller than either one of us. Short and tall goes together, proves it, see?”
With half-closed eyes and open hands held in a ‘voila!’ gesture, his look of satisfaction brought to mind a Disney character. I stirred the hot liquid inside my cup, forming a small maelstrom.