She grasps her necklace in her hand, “Thanks. It’s a tree,” she says. She smiles hiding her teeth. She is unaware that I can see a fraction of her front tooth peeking out. Her eyes outstretched but her eyebrows larger than life. Who is this woman? My soul mate? Or is she the other possibility, the woman whom I think I will connect with and will soon find I am doing everything in my power to erase and avoid.
I am in fact very aware that her necklace is a tree. I have in fact seen trees before, but in my awkwardness and inability to remain silent I feel my lips utter, “I know.” Oh god, will she think me arrogant just because I can identify a tree? Was that comment rude or too short? Probably. Short dialogue can make people uneasy, I read it once. Did I just make her feel awkward? That wasn’t my intent. Immediately the width of her smile shrinks and shifts back and I worry. I don’t know what about. I just always worry. Luckily, there is a nod followed by the kind of half-grin that is often overlooked as the most adorable facial expression one can make. Our eyes remain locked. Her left hand remains clutched against her wiry, green tree necklace and her right hand rests atop the bridge that we happened to both be standing on at the same moment.
“Do you drink coffee?” I ask in desperation thinking that if she says yes and we extend this chance meeting in a park to include coffee I must resort, however hard, to decaf. After all, she’s never seen a caffeinated me and I realize that that is for the best.
Her telling, vibrant hazel green eyes stare downward. Is she nervous too? Is she about to reject my company? Does she have to urinate? I just don’t know. And by the way, what kind of woman doesn’t drink coffee? Perhaps she’s jobless and ambitionless and never has a need to wake in the morning with purpose. Great I’ve found the only American woman who doesn’t believe in women’s rights. I have no idea what is happening, but I am all too aware that I haven’t even flinched in nearly a minute. People are suppose to move. I adjust in an effort to appear more casual, but I don’t know what to do with my hands and my knees are sort of weighing me down. They begin to bobble about.
“Coffee is not my favorite, actually.”
“Oh, ok.” I say realizing that I might have dodged a bullet on this one. I was minutes away from attracting the most beautiful bum I’d ever seen. Physical attraction can be such a trap. Quite often the appeal of a stranger ends abruptly anyway, right? Maybe their voice is a weird pitch, or they say for sure after every sentence. At this point, I’d been staring at her for too long and thought I’d better stare back down at the stream below.
“Aaron, was it?”
“I prefer lattes.”
What? Was she being funny? I look up and realized with her returned smile that she was. I’m envious that she is comfortable enough to be funny.
“Caramel lattes, no whip topping. They give you less coffee.”
I am perplexed but pleased. I myself am never funny. Gassy, clumsy, but never funny. Qualities I should surely not project on an initial latte date, I gather. As we stroll past the park and back towards the coffee shops that decorate the coast, I being to wonder if I am the attractive one whom people try to erase and run from. I can see it. Oh god. I will give her a little more space between us just in case the impulse to continue her morning jog becomes too hard to resist.