Some days I remember that anything can happen in New York. Just when you really need to be woken up, New York obliges in one form or another. But she's a fickle mistress - your wakeup call could range from the unpleasant (taxi driver locking the doors and refusing to go the "wilds" of Brooklyn at 2am despite the fact you are alone, drunk and in possession of a mangled umbrella entirely incapable of shielding you from the unpredicted deluge of dirty rain), odd (that guy with a cat on his head who incidentally has now migrated up Broadway all the way to SoHo) or the swoon-inducing: Jake Gyllenhaal quietly eating breakfast in my regular cafe. Those of you who know me will realise that this event is like some kind of personal milestone for me - he is one of the few people I would actually care to meet, the others being David Lynch and Hans Blix. Yes, Hans Blix. And possibly Mark Kermode.
Anyway, after a meeting on Thursday morning, I decided that I needed the type of reliably strong coffee which only this particular cafe* can supply. There was a lineup out the door and so my colleagues abandoned me to my fate. I hope they regret this now, because as I stood in line I saw a vaguely-familiar looking guy sitting by the window. When I realized it was Jake Gyllenhaal I immediately started looking anywhere but at him, as there was a kind of rising estrogen temperature in the room, a lot of giggling and trying to move up in the line to get a better view (which, apart from being mortifyingly embarrassing, is very annoying when you actually REALLY NEED YOUR COFFEE RIGHT NOW, GYLLENHAAL OR NOT).
As I looked back, expressionless, Jake looked right at me, in the eyes. I was very careful not to let any kind of expression cross my face ("Be careful," warned my friend later. "First he'll take your soul… then your apartment"). I probably should have smiled like a normal human, not stared coldly like Patrick Bateman. I glanced away and then looked back. Our eyes met again and we stared for 3 seconds. This sounds like the beginning of a romantic comedy, but in reality, it was almost a careful negotiation, like he was daring me to move suddenly and unleash chaos. I have the terrible feeling that my attempts to radiate coolness yet approachability, kind of "Hey, I really admire your political activism and your intelligent role choices and don't worry I'm not going to throw myself at you from across the room," unfortunately telepathically communicated "Dude, you've obviously been sitting there with your Macbook for like 3 hours now. Your coffee is cold. I'm wearing killer heels and just want to sit down" instead.
So as usual my tactics backfired, and whether he was being polite or quite possibly becoming increasingly terrified of the estrogen meter reaching critical levels, poor Jake started packing up his Macbook and his iPod and carried his dishes over to the counter. At this point it briefly crossed my mind that this might very well be my only chance ever to strike up a conversation with him, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Besides, since he was in possession of a pair of (very attractive) glasses, it's quite possible that he hadn't actually seen me at all, and had merely been staring into space trying to decide whether he wanted the rest of his croissant or not.
Regardless, thank you New York for reminding me that strange things can happen. And Jake Gyllenhaal if you read this, please know you never have to give up your seat for me - oh and thanks for supporting Greenpeace. We appreciate it.
* There are only two cafes so far in New York with coffee at Antipodean standards. This is one and it shall remain nameless to protect Mr Gyllenhaal from screaming women. The other is Kaffe 1668 in Tribeca - owned by Swedes and often with an Australian barista. If you're really stuck you can grab a takeaway at Balthazar but then you'll have to get a delicious pastry to go with it and if you do that every day where will it end?