At the noisy, coffee-smelling, library café, I sit across a grinning Paul Eisele. His large black bag is seated in front of him.
“Nice bag. Mind if I browse through it?”
“Go ahead,” Paul replies, as he dumps the bag into my lap and smiles widely, revealing his mind-bogglingly pearly, almost blinding whites. I must ask what his secret is later.
At first glance, the slouchy shoulder bag is stunning. With the black leather, meticulous-patterned-coating and sturdy handle, the handbag is clearly designed well. As it should be; it is Coach, authentic Coach.
Upon the first quick dig, I realize the bag carries a lot more than initially perceived; it is multi-functional with compartments not discernible to the naked eye.
And so I decide to systematically remove each item one-by-one. What I stumble upon is interesting: five different-flavored empty gum packets, a Marvel Spider-Man cap, a black Beats case, a silver hair brush, car keys, rosary beads, two prescription bottles, a shopping list of next season’s designer accessories, a clutter of endless receipts, and a tiny jar of chapstick.
When Paul gazes at his belongings laying merely an inch apart from one another, he eyes the hairbrush and chapstick. He goes on to brush his already well-groomed hair and uses his right pointer finger to apply chapstick delicately.
“I kind of like the chaos of the bag,” Paul confesses.
As we sit, Paul glances at a walking, random passerby carrying what appears to be a designer handbag.
“That’s a knock-off Louis Vuitton,” he proclaims.
“How do you know?”
“Come on. It’s obvious,” he replies, as if knowing how to point out a fake handbag is as simple as breathing air. He looks at me with his dark-rimmed, round glasses that remind me of Harry Potter’s.
Paul is a junior double majoring in Creative Writing and Communications. He writes poetry and fiction. His love of writing is emphasized by the green gold-lined journal that he writes in every so often. He offers to share an excerpt.
He sifts through it for two minutes until he finds an entry chronicling the first time he met one of his closest friends. He takes his time to read what’s written and I’m glad. The well-enunciated words and the attention to pauses in speech is refreshing.
Paul is a commuter at Manhattanville College. In the countless times I have seen Paul at the library during the most questionable of hours, like 3 AM onward, I would have never guessed he was a commuter.
“It’s not so bad,” he says because he commutes to college an hour away from Connecticut. Then he hits me with the information that he used to be a campus resident for a week during the second semester of his freshman year.
“What exactly happened?”
“I stepped on a used condom in the bathroom,” he confesses. As he recalls, he cringes slightly, as if there are tingles spiraling down his back.
“Were you barefoot, or wearing slippers?”
“I was wearing slippers. After that [incident], I was done. It was really kind of terrible,” he goes on.
He briefly mentions that he’s adopted and does not know about his birthparents.
“If you could, would you want to meet them?”
“No. I don’t have a reason to. Besides, there are legal reasons [that prevent possible meeting].” A narrow smile forms in the ridges of his mouth, as he runs his fingers through his silky, black hair.
“How about those shoes? A story to them?” I point downward toward his feet. Paul is donning black boots that have a cool vintage feel to them.
“I got them from Amazon in May 2013 for $54 from an original price of $255.” The heel is three quarters of an inch. When he wears them, he confesses that he feels taller than he is and that he can compete with other people.
He concludes that he associates height with power. With an already great stature of 5 feet and 10-11 inches, Paul adds that his ideal height is 6 feet and ½.
I notice Paul’s glistening teeth again and I ask what his secret to the whiteness is.
“I use bleach. No, I don’t. Imagine. I just brush them.” He reveals those pearly whites once again, as he laughs.
Paul’s friend, Alejandro Martinez, describes Paul as “unique, crazy, and exotic.”
At one point, Paul asks Alejandro how many inches his waist is. Initially, Alejandro laughs, as if in disbelief of the asked question.
“You must know [your waist size],” Paul says.
“I think I’m 34 [inches],” Alejandro lets out, a little unsure. Paul gazes at Alejandro’s waistline and examines it briefly.
“You can’t be. You’re 33 [inches],” Paul asserts firmly. Alejandro glances momentarily at me and laughs. He admits that Paul is probably right because that may be what his pants size is.
Paul seems to know a lot of people. He’s laughing, while talking to a smiling Victoria Santamoreno and a serious-looking John Hawks. Having met both of them a few times already, I ask them to describe Paul.
“He’s Paul. He exudes self-confidence [and] has a heightened awareness of his own being,” Victoria says.
John states Paul “asks a lot of questions. At least to me.”
The conversation shifts to hypothetical pen names and I ask Paul what his would be if he had one. Initially, he doesn’t know. He has to think. After ten minutes, he beams and requests a paper and pen to write his hypothetical pen name down.
It is Jack Melbourne, a fabricated name, an idealized title, and the cursive autograph of a potential, future, best-selling author that has a nice ring to it.