It will hit you before you realize what is happening, but it will happen.
Because he is tall or because she has kind eyes or something somewhere in between, because they have a nice voice and make you laugh, because they’ll take your weak joke about taking your coffee “black, like my soul” in stride, because they will be friendly and in a cold city, we often mistake friendliness for warmth, so starved are we for that rare magic that only occurs in strangers who treat us as if they’ve known us forever.
Because you happened to go to their coffee shop today instead of the one you usually go to a few blocks down, and they just happened to be working that shift, and, being a closeted hopeless romantic, you call mere coincidence “fate.” You’ll fall in love with them because an instantaneous crush will buzz in your head, because they knew how to make a cup of coffee, because he seemed to register and remember my order for the future — or at least your joke, maybe — though it was probably just one of dozens of orders they’ll take today and you will be one of dozens of customers, and maybe the two of you just shared one of the hundreds of laughs they’ve had with their customers.
You’ll know better than to fall in love with a stranger, because you’ve been there, too. You know firsthand what it means when you smile back at an overeager customer, when you hand them their change and their purchase and try to gently hand them back their heart, too. You will know you should not love them, because they’ll probably only ever be your barista and you will probably only ever be their customer and you will never be anything else to each other.
You — they, you, I, all of us — cannot live by pegging all of our dreams on strangers. It might be the safe thing to do, because we will never worry about what happens when they stop loving us if they never started loving us to begin with.
Unrequited love — love from a distance — is safe, but it’s not really living.
But we live in wild times, and we do the things we know we should not do. You’ll think it’s a good idea to get a tattoo of a quote you read in a secondhand bookshop, walk halfway down the street, and discuss font patterns with the artist. You eat street meat. You take the subway at 2 a.m, even though it should be safe, but when the streets are dark and you walk home after sharing a car with nobody save the sleeping man in the corner, you can’t help but feel a little raw and very alone. You risk moving in with a significant other, you risk that breakup, you risk fighting over the apartment as if it is a child and you want sole custody.
These are our priorities.
You gamble when you’re in Vegas; you risk when you’re alive.
But maybe that’s the point of living. Maybe that’s why we’re alive. Because we want to risk ourselves, our lives and our happiness and everything in between. We take risky jobs, we risk that the taxi driver has a decent record and knows where he is going, we trust risky people and we make them our friends. And we fall in love with strangers, because while trusting your heart to somebody is a risk everyone takes, sooner or later, to trust it to somebody you’ve known your whole life in your hometown is a little less random than pointing a blind finger at a crowd and deciding to love one other person, out of the millions of possible choices.
You may fall in love with your barista today, and nothing might come of that. It might just stay a fleeting infatuation. You may never tell them. It would be safer that way. But your boss usually sends you out for a cappuccino around 4 every day, so you never know.
People have done crazier things in this life. You have taken crazier risks.
Take a risk today. You never really know what could happen until you do.