That Sweet, Steamy Coffee Shop Attraction


There is beauty in the way you speak to me.

Your words are soft, but they are supple. They encourage me to scoot to the edge of my seat, elbows propped against this cold, wooden table. I want to catch each of your stream-of-conscious thoughts so that I can tuck them into my purse for later.

Later, after you drop me off at my house and walk me up to my front step.

Later, after you lean forward hesitantly and then move backwards, resting against one of the columns that support my front porch (you want to kiss me, I think, but you don’t know if you are allowed, yet, to breach the invisible line that separates where you stand from where I stand).

Later, after I try successfully to fall asleep for the fifth night in a row against the constant reverb of cars that scuttle past my bedroom window, I will remember how William Faulkner is your favorite writer and how you can only fall asleep to music and how much you loved the crust-less peanut butter and jelly sandwiches your mother packed into your lunches every morning of second and third grades.

But, now, in this coffee shop on the corner of Church Street and an avenue whose name I can’t remember despite spending countless Sundays studying here, you talk with your hands.

You grasp at imaginary adjectives, adverbs, and nouns that hang thick and ripe in the air. You make grand, sweeping gestures to add crescendos and decrescendos to the stories you tell me. You speak in run-on sentences, in a constant stream of parentheticals and em dashes — each thought multiplies into ten more.

And I could listen to you ramble for stretches of time that end too quickly and become entranced by the way you string syllables into sentences.

You pause every few minutes to bring your hands together and take long draughts from a steaming mug of tea. You don’t drink coffee at night because you know you couldn’t fall asleep afterwards, but I hate the subtle, almost flavorless taste of tea and love the acid bitterness of dark roasts.

The barista begins to stack chairs onto tables around each us, and he clears his throat to signify that it is time to go, but neither of us make a motion to rise from this table.

Instead, I think about how easily you say my name. Not Stephanie, but Steph. I don’t like it when people I don’t know very well shorten my name, but in the span of two hours, we feel like close friends who have known each other for a while.