My Chuck Taylors hit the hard-packed cement as I step out of the car, slamming my door shut behind me. This place doesn’t look any different than the rest of the downtown block. Exposed brick and industrial pipes make up the framework of most of the buildings.
I haul my bag over my shoulder, telling myself that I’m only stopping here for coffee.
But truthfully, I don’t want to believe that you took the good of this place with you. I want to prove that you don’t have a hold on me anymore. I want to go where we first met and not feel a thing. Because if there’s anything I’m good at, it’s that.
A boy holds the door for me. He’s wearing a flannel and smells like peppermint gum.
He reminds me of you.
I step inside just as the song is changing over the speakers. It’s the same one we listened to that first day.
And suddenly, I’m back to where it all started.
Six months back, and I’m seeing you through that window where I’m seated in a booth waiting. I’m anxious. My coffee sits in front of me, untouched. And I realize that you already have quite the hold on me to make me nervous enough to forget my drink.
This isn’t even a date, I remind myself. In this label-free world we live in, it’s just two friends “hanging out” at a coffee shop.
I see you park and get out of your car. You’re tall, dark, and handsome, in a rugged way. So easily dressed in a button-down and jeans, I found it hard to breathe. You smiled, and I noticed it reached your eyes. Instinctively, I smiled back, waving at you through the window, and then feeling like a complete idiot.
A song comes on. One that I have always loved, and you walk through the door as if on cue.
And everything happens in time with the music.
That first date is blurred, but I remember hearing the first few notes and seeing glimpses of coffee stains on wood tables, your curly hair sticking out of a baseball hat. My nervous fingers playing with a straw wrapper. Our coffees cool to the touch. Your eyes flicking to my lips, and finding myself wondering how many girls you have kissed.
The song continues with a few more chords and suddenly the next couple months go by.
I become familiar with the weight of those strong tan fingers intertwined with mine. Beautiful eyes closing, and the light brushing of lips – the innocence of it all.
I remember the smoky scent of autumn, your dark green winter coat, and the tease of snow in the air.
The second verse comes around, and things become more vivid. We’re bolder in our declarations of love. Your kisses leave trails along my skin. My cheek, throat, and finally my mouth. We’re breathless, and both falling.
The high note is coming, and I remember when touching you was second nature. I wore your sweatshirts like they were my own.
We’d spend weekends watching movies or going to concerts since we both liked the same bands. We frequented coffee shops and new restaurants. We’d drive around aimlessly in your truck for hours talking about our greatest accomplishments and biggest fears.
We’d make late night snacks or pick up doughnuts at midnight and eat them all before sunrise. You called me by my last name so often I quit responding to my first. I found it all so endearing.
You’d play with my hair and I’d trace the lines on your fingers.
I had every freckle on the bridge of your nose memorized, and everything is fine, it’s fine, it’s fine… but then.
It’s you forgetting to call.
It’s over-reactions and over-thinking. Call-ended notifications and sleep exhaustion.
It’s pretending we’re moving on.
It’s meaningless conversations with strangers, who I’m so desperately trying not to compare to you.
It’s my headlights leaving your driveway and rivers of tears rolling down my face in a way that would have made Justin Timberlake proud.
I hear the chorus start to swell and can feel the key change in my bones.
And finally it’s at the bridge; that’s where everything changes.
Ironically, the bridge is my favorite part in most songs. It feels a little like redemption. It hooks you back in. You find yourself listening to that same song over and over again, just to get to that bridge.
That’s where the good stuff is.
This is where you call me and apologize.
You tell me you love me in this part.
And it’s not done the way others used to do it. You don’t bring me red roses or whisper it while a sea of stars watches us, twinkling their midnight magic. There aren’t any rocks thrown at my window, or me sneaking out to meet you after midnight.
You told me like this:
“I think I love you.”
“Yeah, but I’m a little nervous, and I’m afraid if I move any closer I’ll make a fool of myself.”
Just kiss me.
No, you weren’t ever a romantic, which is a quality I always thought I liked, but now I’m not so sure.
It’s a quality not many possess anymore with a world of scrolling and likes at our fingertips. A world of possibilities that make it nearly impossible to attach ourselves to just one person.
A world in which a boy tells you he loves, and you find yourself feeling the same way but you don’t say it yet because you’re scared. Scared to admit that you have fallen in love with his coffee cups, and bed head, and tired signs after a long day.
His ripped jeans and sarcastic comments usually at your expense. His genuine smile right before he kisses you. Even the little things won you over like his off-key humming, his rear-view mirror glances, his compassion and generosity, and love for words. Him reaching for your hand.
A few days after realizing this, I found a poem I’d written a few years back that said:
Cat lover. Dogs, too.
Sweet and charming.
Free with compliments.
Can work with tools.
Isn’t one himself.
A heart-breaking smile.
Favors country music.
My requirements, you met them all. You were exactly what I wanted.
But sometimes none of that is enough. Because a boy can tell you he loves you and three months later, you two won’t even be talking anymore.
When that song ends, it’s so subtle.
The keys drift off into oblivion just like you did.
Because here and now, we don’t end things.
Not like we should have anyway.
Our generation doesn’t like goodbyes and awkward conversations.
We don’t know the definitions of closure or commitment.
And I’m just like them, even though I don’t want to be.
I want to be angry with you for the way it all ended, but I can’t.
It’s not something I ever saw happening to us, but when 9:36 rolled around and I still hadn’t heard from you, I knew.
Maybe this subtle ending is what hurts us all so much. Because in this world of texting and messaging, we have the ability to talk to someone whenever we want to. So when that one person doesn’t text you back like they always have, you begin to pull back.
You learn to hide your emotions. You learn to loosen your expectations. You learn to act like you don’t care. You wait the approximate 26 minutes to respond to him the next time he contacts you. And when others ask you about him, you downplay it all.
You begin to forget the good things.
You begin to lose your emotions, when emotions are what love is built around.
The song is finally over. And I hear the barista calling my name. So I set my things down and bring my coffee back to that same corner booth where we sat on that first day where it all began. I take mine black now, something I must have picked up from you.
I find myself looking down at my phone; a force of habit I suppose. And I see your name.
After all these weeks it’s there again, where it’s always belonged. Where I have missed it. It’s there and I’m here. And you’re somewhere else, clueless and missing me and attempting to rebuild everything that crashed down around us.
You’re back again. You always come back.
And I realize I’m tired of pretending.