In life, we fall in love with people. In coffee shops, we fall in love with ideas. Coffee shops are spontaneous yet consistent, like a good artist or a good lover. There’s a different couple sitting in a corner booth, looking at Instagram photos while a different old man wearing a scarlet scarf stares off into the corner of a newspaper page, looking for hidden truths in the pagination. There’s always that song playing on the speakers, the one you love but never remember to look up when you go home; you get to have the experience of connecting with a lost romance again and again.
You smiled at me when I stepped up to the counter, but it was your hair that ruined me — those gas stove blue curls that rolled out from beneath the suffocating grasp of a black bandanna and shimmered with the reflection of incandescent stars. I gave you my order and you spun around to face the coffee machine. I’ve always had a weakness for stunningly colored hair. Whether the strands smell like fresh lavender or fresh bleach, they never cease to whisper “freedom” into my longing ear. I heard the word through a seashell as you turned, those bright blue waves cresting over the thin countertop and crashing gently against my face.
You turned around, and I watched the coffee tilt and swirl in the cup. I saw the droplets leap across the lip as you did, and hissed softly as they steamed against your skin, an all too literal moment of secondhand pain. You winced, I winced. We touched fingertips as we exchanged the cup and a fleeting glance. It was very “meet cute,” and we fell for the idea of that shared moment in the middle of New York City, where seconds last eternities and romances rush by like the novel you have to carefully skim for tomorrow’s lecture. You asked what my name was.
To love an idea is easy; it’s the shared secrets and hushed laughter while cuddling in bed. To love another person is to love their baggage; the secrets that are gasped between running noses and tears that pound the hardwood like torrential rain. It’s hard and it’s absolutely worth it, but I wasn't ready for a million and one different reasons. I thanked you for the coffee and walked away. Selfishly, I hoped I’d rediscover you tomorrow. Maybe that one song would play in the background.
I never got its name, either.