The line and the rose

« Can I try out a new pick-up line on you? »

It was a spring afternoon and I was sitting in a café in Auckland just a few days after my arrival in New Zealand, drinking my first ever flat white coffee and writing in my journal. It took me a while to realize somebody was talking to me, and before looking up I had the time to notice he was barefoot. A friend who had spent some time in the country had previously told me with admiration and nostalgia that Kiwis rarely wear shoes, but this boy was the first person I met who seemed to prove her right. « Can I try out a new pick-up line on you? »

« I am sorry? »

The boy was dark-haired, with olive skin and looking more or less my age. He was holding a few red roses in one hand. For a second I thought he wanted to sell them, as it often happened in cafés and restaurants back at home. I remember feeling mildly annoyed.

« A pick-up line. You know, just to practice and see the impact of it ».

This is new, I thought, now curious and vaguely amused. « Well, let’s hear it. Go ahead! »

« Do you have a band-aid? »

« A what? »

« A band-aid. »

I thought a little before admitting I didn’t know what the word means. Some words, you just don’t come across them and you end up learning them later on, even if you have been studying the language for a long time. I felt somehow guilty, as if I was ruining the effect of a well-rehearsed theatre scene by interrupting it.

« You know, those patches you put on your skin when you cut yourself. Band-aids. »

« Ahhhhhhh. I get it. No, I don’t have any with me right now. Why? »

The boy straightened himself before exhibiting the best bit of his line: « Because I hurt myself falling for you. »

I started to laugh despite myself, almost choking on my coffee. It was so…simple, innocent. I had braced myself for something much more aggressive and now realized how easy it was to judge or even fear strangers. The boy seemed put off and I felt guilty again.

A friend of his, a girl who was seated at the table next to mine, stepped in: « You really, really have to work on your lines, my dear. » I couldn’t stop to laugh.

We all talked a little and, before leaving, the boy presented me with one of his roses. I am not usually very good at talking with strangers, nor I had often been given red roses. New Zealand boded well.