He had jasmine in his hair the day we met. Standing there in his busy smoothie shop greeting sculpted yoga moms and tailored young men, he looked like a frat boy.
But his soft and clear brown eyes told me more.
I saw him notice me and then consciously not notice me so he could watch without notice. I was grateful, because I could not figure out what had piqued his interest.
The dark circles? The second-hand clothes? The naked face?
Maybe he had guessed the way I would light up when I began to dance with my four year old daughter before we even had a chance to stand in line.
If that was it, I knew I was in trouble.
His name was Love. I had been single for thirteen months. Believing in tender arms was more of a mantra than a part of my gait.
The smoothie I shared was good but expensive. Pineapple, pomegranate, strawberry, Greek yogurt and something else.
We didn’t speak the first time. I had to go back.
In the weeks that followed, I convinced myself that I was looking for some magical spark in his eyes, but the truth is, I was trying to find out if I could.
The signs were clear. Matthew abruptly changed the music when I came back on my own. Then he sat at our table the next time I brought my daughter.
“You must be a great dad.”
He looked at his hands. “I try my best.”
As we headed toward something more, I started choosing my Pumas over my Vans.
My natural open awkwardness disappeared. I shook the shakiness from my hands before going into the shop.
I started to question if he was an Ash tree or an Aspen.
Everything about Matthew checked out. But all I had known was broken hearts. He didn’t fit into my categories, so I cut off little pieces of him until I recognized him as one whose heart I would break.
I hated being that person more than I hated having my heart broken.
I needed to make it quick, and from somewhere above my body, speed seemed reasonable.
My teenage self took over. One morning, exhausted after two weeks of broken, restless sleep, I went to make coffee and found none in the house.
I pulled a hat over my messy hair and headed to Matthew’s shop. I ordered a java blend to go.
“To go?” He was being playful, trying to make me smile.
I was terrified.
My exhausted, bitchy, pre-coffee teenage self was, like, the worst self I was willing to be in public.
And he wanted me to stay?
In my mind, I was flapping my arms like a crazed sparrow, but that was a me I would not be out loud.
I refused to smile. I was mean.
“Ya, to go.”
I looked down at my laced Pumas. I walked home mumbling ‘fuck’. I spent the day trying to warm my hands with the sunshine that graced the alley between my house and the next house.
I decided for him that he was wrong about me.
I walked by his shop about a week later wearing a ring that was given to me years before by a girlfriend.
Matthew was outside. My daughter wanted a smoothie. I told her we couldn’t have one.
I tried to walk fast. When I glanced up, he was watching me.
There was pain in his eyes.
I broke my own heart. But he’ll never know. And neither will anyone else.
photo taken from knightstemplarinternational.com