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Possibilities and a Coffee Shop
The coffee shop was full of people. The lines were long, the tables were full, and it was hard to walk without stepping on someone else’s foot, but the smell permeating the warm air was worth it. I removed my gloves and shook snow out of my hair as I took my own place in the ever-growing line, envying those who had gotten here in the early hours of the morning.
It was as I was next in line to order my coffee that I saw him: dark hair, blue eyes, earphones plugged in and not a care in the world. He sat as if not wanting to be seen, ignoring the passing looks of giggling girls, unaware that they were already head over heels for him. Maybe it was because he already had a girlfriend, or he was just oblivious, or that he thought he was better than everyone else, but he seemed like he simply did not care.
He was sitting on the only chair at a circular two-person table, the other one taken away by a larger group. Something about the way he sat and sipped his coffee slowly, about the way he took a torn paperback book out of his backpack and began to read, about the way he ran his hand through his hair and frowned, that made him seem… lonely. I couldn’t describe why I thought that, except, simply, that I did.
“Excuse me, miss?” A voice called. I quickly returned to reality. The cashier looked to where my eyes had been, then turned back, clearly amused.
“Yes?” I pretended I hadn’t seen him smirking.
The cashier—I now saw his name was Ryan—said, “Your order?”
“Just a latte, small, please.” And I paid for my coffee, glancing quickly to the table where I’d seen the boy, except… he was gone. After getting back my change from Ryan, I went off to the side to wait, receipt in hand, silently wondering where… Book Boy could have gone. The name came out of nowhere; it was just the way I remembered him.
What book had he been reading? I asked myself, trying to remember the title. 'David Copperfield', I thought, recalling the same novel I’d read several months ago. For some reason, this made me more intrigued. Book Boy didn’t really seem like the kind of boy to be playing with the classics.
The man who gave me my drink a few minutes later seemed like the kind who would talk. “Did you happen to see that boy earlier, sitting at that table with a book?” I pointed.
“Simon? He’s a regular. But I won’t be seeing him again. I hear he’s moving.”
So Book Boy had a name. But moving? Why? “House? State?” I needed to know.
The man shook his head and looked back at the table for one second. “Country.”
My heart skipped a beat and a dark feeling washed over me. It wasn’t like me to feel upset over a boy I had never met, let alone talked to. “Do you know where he lives?”
“No. You’ve never met him?” The man seemed confused. “He’s here everyday.”
“This isn’t my regular coffee shop,” I explained. The cold weather had dragged me in here. I’d normally walk several more blocks before reaching where I’d normally go for an early morning coffee. “Does he have a last name?”
“If he does, I don’t know it.” The man turned away at this point and I was forced to do the same. People were still waiting for their coffees and shoved past me while I treaded my way to the empty table Book Boy, or Simon, rather, had been sitting at.
I sat on the same chair, looked at the same scene he’d been ignoring, sipped at my coffee the same way I’d seen him do, and imagined what it would feel like to be him. I plugged in my ipod and put it on shuffle, not really caring, at the moment, what I was listening to. What had he been listening to? I knew I wouldn’t be able to guess.
A piece of paper lay on the table, abandoned; it was a receipt for a muffin and a drink. I had to believe it was Book Boy’s. Simon’s. Scribbled on the back of the receipt were the words, 'Strange Girl never comes in here, but today she did. I wish I could '
It was unfinished. When had Book— Simon written that? I hadn’t seen him until several minutes after entering. But he had seen me. Or, I hoped it was me. Why hadn’t he finished his sentence? I drained my coffee. The receipt went in my pocket, where I hoped it would be safe. Then I marched right up to the giggling girls. “Do you know Simon?” I immediately asked.
I recognized one of the girls from school, trying not to look me in the eye; the rest were unfamiliar. A pretty blonde answered, “Of course we know Simon, don’t we girls?” Everyone nodded. “He’s here everyday. Why?” Her voice was too sweet.
“I just wanted to know where he lives.” I told them.
The girls shrugged. The blonde girl continued to be the spokesperson for the group. “And why should we tell you? For all we know, you could be some stalker or whatever.”
“And for all I know, you may actually be lying about knowing Simon; I saw you staring at him earlier. He completely ignored you.” The girls’ looks turned unsure. “Right. Thanks.” I put on my gloves as I walked out of the coffee shop. The cold calmed me a little bit and made me aware of how crazy I was, with my fast-beating heart and thoughts that Simon, who I never would’ve described as someone who liked to read at first glance, would like me back. If he had been talking about me, if I was Strange Girl, then he had noticed me before. Why hadn’t he stayed to say hi, then?
My head was racing with all the possibilities I’d missed out on because of my preferred tastes in a different coffee shop. What were the chances that my could-be soul mate was about to leave the country and I might never see him again?
I turned on instinct when I heard my name. It was the girl from my school, the one I’d recognized. “Hey, um… Margaret right?”
“Or Maggie.” She started twirling some of her hair, biting her lip and looking behind her. Why was this girl talking to me? Shouldn’t she be with her friends? “I just wanted to tell you about Simon.”
My ears perked up at this. “Simon? You know him?”
Maggie nodded. “I didn’t say anything at the coffee shop because, well, those girls are kind of obsessed with him, but I used to babysit his sister, Mary. I know where he lives.”
My jaw dropped. “You know where he lives? Wow. Can you tell me? Because I really want to talk to him. I know I might sound like your friends but this is for a completely different reason. I’ve never actually met him and this was the first day I’d ever seen him but I don’t know… you know?” As if Maggie really needed this explanation. But I didn’t want her to think I was crazy. Because I wasn’t.
“It’s okay,” Maggie said. “I get it. He’s hot.” I silently agreed. “But I have to warn you—be careful.”
I frowned. “Why?”
“The thing is…” Maggie took a deep breath and started again. “You don’t really know Simon. Even when I saw him for the better part of a week, I hadn’t really known him. He’s not the kind of guy to let just any girl in. I don’t want to give you any hope when you’re just going to get disappointed. Take it from me; I had the biggest crush on him for ages, and one day, I confronted him. I mean, he’d always been nice to me, but then… nothing ever happened. And then I overheard him telling a friend that he wanted to meet this girl he’d see all the time outside a coffee shop. He called her—”
“Yes,” Maggie said, nodding. “How’d you know?”
I found myself putting a hand in the pocket of my jeans and touching the receipt. “Just a feeling, I guess,” I lied.
Maggie shrugged, accepting the answer. “What I’m trying to say is, don’t get your hopes up.” Too late for that. “Simon already likes someone. And besides, you don’t know him. Don’t you think it’s kind of strange to be asking about someone you’ve never met?”
I thought about it. Yes, it was kind of strange. But I was strange, wasn’t I? “Well, thanks. But I think I’ll be fine.” I paused for a second, and then asked, “So where does he live? I won’t be doing anything crazy, I promise. I just want to say hi.”
“Are you sure?” My nod to that must have been really convincing because Maggie finally said, “Come on. It’s not far from here. I’ll take you there.”
I wanted to tell her not to go through all that trouble; I was perfectly capable of walking on my own, but I kept quiet and followed. Maggie walked with confidence, like someone who had everything figured out. She struck me as the kind of girl who was able to pick herself up again no matter how many falls she took. Normally, I’d be jealous of her, but in this situation, where she was being more helpful than my own friends, I had to admire her. Taking a stranger to her ex-crush’s house must be hard.
We arrived at a house with a red roof and white walls. It looked like nobody lived in it. A moving truck was being loaded with the last few boxes on the curb. Suddenly, I was that crazy girl again, afraid that I had lost my last chance at meeting someone I might like.
Maggie shouted at me to stop as I ran up to one of the people loading the van. “Did everyone already leave the house?” I asked.
“Yes. We’ll be about half an hour behind them as soon as we get this load up.”
I looked at Maggie in shock. She crossed her arms and stood beside me, shrugging. “Which airport are they going to?” I asked. The man had a strange look on his face and didn’t look like he was going to answer, and so I added, “I’m one of Simon’s friends and I never got to say goodbye to him. I really need to know.” I tried to sound desperate, and, in truth, I kind of was. It was a good thing that the fact that I couldn’t have called Simon on my own and found out never occurred to the man. He muttered the answer and turned away. I was going to ask for a ride there, but the look on Maggie’s face told me that what I had done was crazy enough. I could drive, but I didn’t have a car. “So Maggie…”
She laughed. “Are you really that psycho about him?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Alright, then. I’ll drive you there.”
Maggie lived surprisingly close. It was about a ten-minute walk and I felt that I should have enough time to find Simon and do what I wanted to do: say hi. The ride itself was longer than I expected, what with all the traffic on a Saturday morning. Why did Simon have to be leaving at such an inconvenient time?
When we arrived, Maggie stopped by the entrance and smiled, yelling, “Go get him, girl!” as if this were all a game.
I rushed out and thrust my hands in my pockets, fast-walking to the doors. The inside was warm and I hurried over to the check-in line. The plane wouldn’t be boarding quite that soon. I was absolutely crazy, running after some guy, but I wasn’t that crazy that I would buy a ticket just to meet him, no matter how important he could end up being to me. Besides, I didn’t know for sure if I was Strange Girl.
The check-in line was filled with people and even more crowded than the line back at the coffee shop. Book Boy had to be here. It wasn’t like he had to make a flight so soon. According to the man from the moving truck, the flight wasn’t until an hour or so. Where could Simon have gone? I scanned each passing face and even stopped to ask several people if they had seen him. None could recall. Why were people so unobservant?
I spotted his dark hair somewhere up ahead, as he picked up suitcases and walked to a couple and a little girl. It was him. It had to be. Some part of me wanted to chicken out, until I asked myself: when will a chance like this ever come again? And so I ran. What did I have to lose?
He hadn’t reached his parents when I tapped his shoulder tentatively. “Simon?” I said. Slowly, he turned around. “Hi.”
And he smiled, not shocked at all. “You’re—”
Something slammed into me from the side. I fell, not prepared for this at all. “I am so sorry,” I heard a woman say, just as I looked up to say it was okay. The woman who had been pushing the trolley looked stressed out, holding a baby in one arm while trying to help me up.
“I’m fine,” I told her, standing. This would be embarrassing if I were at the airport to actually get onto a plane. But in front of Simon? The woman looked unconvinced. “Really. I am. I was just talking…”
But when I turned back to where Simon was supposed to be, there was no one there. I tried to look around, knowing he had to be there somewhere, but a small crowd blocked the way, preferring to see what had happened here than to mind their own business. When I finally was able to get out of the crowd, Simon was nowhere to be found.
Maggie joined me several minutes later, saying, “Did you find him?” I shook my head. There was no point in telling her what had transpired while she had been parking the car. “Oh. Well maybe he’s already gone. We were quite far behind him.” I nodded. “You didn’t know him. Maybe you’ll find someone better. Or maybe you’ll meet him again one day.”
“Maybe.” I’d be lying if I said her words didn’t make me feel better. Together, we turned away, and I felt my heart break with the thought that I’d never be able to find out what could’ve happened.
As it turns out, Simon and I applied to the same college, got accepted to the same college, went to the same college, and ended up being in the same English Literature class. We met, we said hi, and we became friends. I mentioned seeing someone who’d looked just like him in a coffee shop during winter break of my junior year of high school, and he mentioned seeing someone just like me walking past his regular coffee shop almost everyday, and then seeing that same girl in the airport when he’d been about to leave the states.
And for years, we’d both been wondering the same thing: what if we had met? And when we muttered those same words to each other one day during lunch, looked in each other’s eyes as if we’d always been meant to meet, I knew I didn’t want to be with anyone else but him. Simon was the one who broke the silence, saying, with a smile, “It’s a small world, isn’t it, Claire?” I agreed. And that was when he kissed me.