tenkara

i’ve been coming here for three months, hoping you’ll notice me. three months. (if i’m honest it’s really closer to four, but let’s pretend i have some modicum of self control.)

i sit in the corner with my book, my notepad, my laptop, my phone, my sketchbook. testing. which one works. which one doesn’t. (answer: so far, none of them.) i sit with herbal tea, no baked goods. i can’t eat the food here. i can’t drink coffee. caffeine makes me ill, makes me vomit, makes my head spin and it’s already spinning and my stomach is already churning a storm at sea. thanks to you. i wear glasses, contacts, my hair up, down. i cut it all off just last month, just to see. not a glance.

today the cute barista flirts at me again, he likes my new hair. his skin is warm and earthy and his hair is full of beautiful coiled curls and i smile demurely back and glance to the side at you from beneath lowered lashes – one blink to the next – as he fills my cup full of jasmine green. decaf. notice me, i’m desirable. the barista is asking my age, finally, and i tell him with a little quirk on my mouth and he can’t believe me, he doesn’t believe me. no one ever does. picture in the attic. jailbait.

i take my drink to the same table i always do, in the corner underneath the broken light because i prefer looking out into the world, not being looked at, between the photograph of some building or other in overblown B&W and the psychedelic painting of a vagina. $400. coffee shop art, amirite?

i trip. of course i do. after all this time, like some slow-mo movie capture, but i don’t fall. i catch my tea as it splashes me. hot. i make a sound of involuntary surprise & pain and you look up, look across the room, look straight at me. our eyes meet. the thrill of victory runs through me even as i’m blushing in embarrassment. this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. i stumble the last step to my table, set my things on it, pilfering leftover napkins from the next over to futilely dab at the soaking wet spot on my black jeans. thank god they’re black. sit in my seat. duck my head behind my book. will my face to cool.

“here.” a hand thrusts into my field of vision, tan, fingers and wrist dusted with dark hair. a bar mop clutched between the fingers, there are callouses on the second and third fingers. you do write a lot. i look up, up, up. you are taller than i remember, or maybe it’s just my racing heart thinking my body is in an atmosphere too thin for my nerves, my lungs, my thoughts to make any sort of sense. you’re the Himalayas, and i’ve only just begun climbing.

“thank you.” i murmur, slowly take the rag, slowly lower my book. glance up at you again. five-o-clock shadow at 10am. scar on your lip. dark eyes. dark hair. a dark smile on your lips. i quickly look down again, press the rag against my jeans.

“you smell like jasmine.” i look up again, startled. glance down at my tea to hide my face in the next moment. finally. finally. that quick thrill of triumph again. a fisherman feeling that first, flirting tug on his hook.

“my name’s Ben, what’s yours?”

caught you.

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