I see her again and again. Each time I become more enamored. However, my life is too complicated to bring someone new into it. And, we simply aren’t meant for each other.
By Angela Rasch
The first time I saw her I thought she was someone I had known long ago.
She was sitting in “my” chair at a table I often used in my favorite community-owned coffee shop. Like Sheldon’s spot on The Big Bang Theory, it was perfect. In the winter that chair sat close enough to the forced hot-air blowing from an overhead vent for me to remain warm, and yet not so close as to cause a person to sweat. In the summer it caught a refreshing breeze every time someone opened the door. It faced the television at an angle that wasn’t so direct that it demanded your attention, nor so far off to the side to create that maddening darkness. The chair was located far enough away from where they did most of the work on the drinks so that I wasn’t overcome by the fumes. By the time they reached me they were pleasant aroma.
I sat in my secondary spot, slightly miffed at her intrusion, before I gave her a second glance. I quickly determined that she wasn’t an old and cherished friend. She actually didn’t look like anyone I’d ever met, but she had the aura of a person I wished I would have as a life-long acquaintance.
Her eyes spoke of a deep honesty. It would be shocking to ever catch her in so much as a little-white-lie. Although she wore glasses, the frames did nothing to hide eyes that had been flung wide open to see everything the world had to offer.
She could be totally different than what I’ve surmised. Things aren’t always as they seem. For example; I don’t drink coffee. My interest in this coffee shop centers on their free Wi-Fi and raspberry/chocolate ice cream.
She often smiled while she read. From the markings on its spine, her book came from the county library. With some effort, I noted its title, The Notebook. Evidently, she found Nicholas Sparks highly amusing.
Her hand frequently brushed shiny auburn curls away from her face, although given the thickness of her hair and how rigorously curly she kept it, her efforts had been in vain.
My own hair had grown to shoulder-length. My youngest granddaughter loved to finger it while I read Dr. Seuss to her. I loved its longer length and shoved aside my daughter’s protest that I needed to “do something” about it. I’m retired and no longer need to make other people happy.
The women’s firm breasts seemed to indicate a youthfulness or at least a life-style centered in healthy activity.
She showed just the right amount of skin for a July morning. Several other women, who were noisily slurping lattes, seemed to think pale/wrinkled skin should be flaunted. Her flawless complexion testified to overall fitness and vigor.
She sipped from a reusable water bottle and nibbled on a bran muffin. Although I wouldn’t say she was a sun-worshipper, it was obvious she spent time outdoors. I would have guessed her to be an avid gardener, but her hands looked like they had never done anything too physical. Perhaps she’s careful and uses gloves.
I started to ask myself the normal questions that run through a man’s idle mind. Is she a potential sexual partner for me? Would I have a chance with her? What would be the best way to meet her?
I was surprised by my interest in her.
It had been over fifty years since I had been in the market for a mate. Sherry and I had been married for forty-seven years. It had been twenty-eight months since she passed away suddenly in her sleep from heart failure. At my age marriage to someone else hadn’t even been a consideration.
If I were looking for a new wife, this woman would be ideal.
I shook myself, feeling unfaithful to Sherry’s memory, but granted myself one more look in her direction.
Our eyes connected and she grinned. “I’ve read this a dozen times.” She held up her book. “I’m still torn over whether Ryan Gosling should have been cast as Noah in the movie. He’s such a great actor, but it wasn’t his best performance.”
I nodded. I hadn’t seen the movie, or read the book. I’d wanted to . . . but real men don’t go to chick flicks or read romance novels. “You’re sitting in my chair,” I said stupidly.
Her face turned a charming scarlet. “Oh! I’m terribly sorry. I can see why you’d want to sit here. It’s very comfortable.” She rose to move.
She’s so elegant! “No,” I said hurriedly. “I meant to compliment you on your good taste in picking that spot. Please don’t move. You look lovely sitting there.” Lovely! I could feel my face glowing in embarrassment.
She had found a way to be even more beautiful while standing. Her flowered shirtdress drew attention to attractive legs that seemed to be about five percent longer than normal for someone of her height. They ended in peach sandals that matched the accents on her dress.
My eyes caught the time on my computer screen. In ten minutes I have to meet my daughter. Today is going to be a big day for me . . . and her. After all these years I’m finally going to tell her.
“I’ve got to go,” I explained. “Please accept my apologies for disturbing you. You have every right to sit in that chair.”
“Have a nice day,” she said brightly and in such a way that I thought she had been the very first to say it.
She would be a great sexual partner, and I’ve just blown whatever scant opportunity I ever had to be with her.
The second time I saw her was in the small park three blocks from my home; just over a week later. Most of those seven days had been spent in tearful reflection. My daughter had not reacted the way I expected. In fact, she hated my revelation.
Her initial response had been, “You pervert! And to think that I’ve been leaving you alone with Emma and Sophia. That will never happen again. In fact, I don’t know if I want you around them at all.”
I had hoped for compassionate acceptance from my daughter and certainly hadn’t thought she would take the nuclear option by preventing me from seeing my grandchildren.
I shuddered, and then focused on the present.
The woman was wearing a pair of skinny jeans. They were white and looked coordinated with her fuchsia topper over a white scoop-necked T and brown canvas espadrilles. Her eyes lit when she saw me.
I also came to a halt, not wanting to appear rude. Her face is flawless.
“I haven’t been sitting in your spot,” she said with a devilish grin.
“I’m so sorry for that,” I started. “Please forget I ever said anything about that stupid chair.”
“That’s like sticking me in the corner, and then telling me I can get out as soon as I quit thinking about pink elephants.” She laughed.
I could feel my face break out of the frown it had been with ever since my daughter had expressed her disappointment in me.
She carried a worn copy of Jane Eyre.
“You must think I’m cut from the same cloth as Mrs. Reed,” I pointed toward her book.
“On the contrary,” she giggled. “Now – don’t take this wrong, but if I were going to compare you to a character in Jane Eyre, it would be Miss Temple. Your face is just so kind and sweet.”
I could feel myself blush. It’s ironic how upset I get when people say something that makes me sound feminine.
“Oh,” she said. “Today it’s my turn to scoot. I’m meeting with my daughter and need to rush home to change my clothes. She’s so conservative. I have my riding clothes, my walking clothes, my everyday clothes, and my ‘daughter’ clothes.” Her smile faded slightly for a second. “Have a nice day.” She walked away about fifteen feet, before she stopped, turned, and waved. Although the sky was cloudless, her wide smile added to its brightness.
She’s pleased to see that I’ve been watching her walk away. I waved back.
Almost a month passed before I saw her again. She was attending Sunday morning mass at my church. The priest delivered a sermon about compassion that seemed out-of-place with the church’s rigidity. Its “rigidity” had stopped me from taking communion since deciding to dress more often to match my internal self, even if it was only in my home. The church and I were in utter disagreement over what clothing I should wear. They were mostly frustratingly silent, but my confessor had told me that he would pray for me, which speaks volumes.
She was dressed in a sleek, knit, floor-length, rose dress with dangly gold earrings. Her necklace of filigreed gold was paired perfectly. For the first time, I noticed an absence of any rings.
My heart stopped for a moment. If she was a married woman, certainly her husband would attend mass with her.
She didn’t see me and I didn’t approach her, although I allowed several luscious moments to pass while daydreaming about possibly spending time with her.
If I were being honest, and presented myself like I want, she wouldn’t have anything to do with me.
A week later I was back at my coffee shop, sitting in my chair when I heard what sounded like an argument.
“It’s our corporate bathroom policy,” the young barista stated with obvious embarrassment. “I don’t make the rules, but if I want to keep my job. . ..”
“It’s a stupid rule,” she mocked in a voice that didn’t equivocate.
“I know that you’re a woman now,” the young man whined, “but, I also knew you when you were my biology teacher -- and you were ‘Mr.’ Stone then.”
“I’m ‘Ms.’ Stone now and. . ..” She stopped and looked at me. “Hello.” She smiled. “It appears our host doesn’t know what year this is. Somehow they’ve made policies that would have been much more appropriate decades ago.”
She looked more beautiful than ever in flowing white, crinkled gauze skirt and matching top with flirty, ruffled, long sleeves.
I laughed internally at my own foolishness, and then closed my eyes and thought of a similar skirt and top which were hanging deep in my closet. I felt ashamed. Here she is -- challenging a world that isn’t always friendly, while I. . .. “Let’s find another coffee shop,” I said loudly. “We have a lot to talk about.”
I took her hand. We both smiled, and then we left my favorite coffee shop -- that contained my favorite chair -- and never returned.
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