It Doesn’t Happen

I stand in line at the cafe. The smell of bread and coffee waft through the building and the man who stands in line in front of me has no idea what he wants to order. He wants a loaf of bread, but isn’t sure which kind—asiago cheese or sourdough—and he doesn’t want his bread collapsing in on itself, which the bakers tell him is natural with warm loaves. I can’t stop looking at the girl who serves him. She doesn’t lose her patience and smiles kindly the entire time, bouncing on her toes as if his every word excites her.

His inability to recognize the beauty of this girl annoys me more than his inability to order. She is little, maybe a smidge over five-feet, and has dark hair and dark eyes. Her smile makes me burn on the inside. It is bright and warm and feels like a swig of whiskey on a cold, depressing night.

. . . We walk together looking at Christmas lights. She loves Christmas lights, she told me earlier. In front of every house, she lets out her share of Ahs and Oohs and bounces on her toes the way she did when I first saw her in the cafe.

People look at us strangely. Me, with my peppered hair and beard, and her, fresh and young and innocent, holding hands. But her lack of giving a shit gives me courage and a sense of confidence I find lacking in myself. So I don’t give a shit either. In front of one house with its lights synced to the “Imperial March” from Star Wars, I pull her close to me, inhaling her. Her hair smells of Springtime and life and her lips taste of strawberries and hope.

“Let’s go back to your place,” she whispers in my ear.

Panic and excitement course through me. Like smelling shit on a baby.

My hand swallows her’s as we walk back to my car and I feel myself tremble. As I drive, she leans her head on my shoulder and falls asleep as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” interrupts the almost perfect silence.

As we walk up to my place, a one-bedroom cell on a mid-floor in a pricey apartment complex, I apologize to her for the mess.

I open my door and on the living room table stands dozens of tall and empty beer bottles. Craft beer, at least, not large bottles of Bud Light or something.

“I live alone,” my voice cracks. “My kids visit once a month and that’s when I usually clean.”

She grips my shirt just below my neck and pulls me down to her. Her tongue is in my mouth and then she pulls back and whispers, “Shut up.”

***

After it doesn’t happen, she rests her hand on my chest and we watch it go up and down as I breathe her in deeply and exhale my feelings of regret and inadequacy.

“This is better,” she says falling asleep. “This is better.” . . .


“Will that be it for you today?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say.

“Have a great day!”

She bounces on her toes and smiles her smile.

“I already have,” I say thinking of Springtime and strawberries.

Note: I have never written an “It was all a dream story.” But I decided what the hell.

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