Have We Met Before?

A light breeze turned the pages of her notebook as she gazed into the distance, lost in the jumble of images floating through her head.  It had been months since she was able to make the trip to her favorite cafe with her notebook, pen, and imagination, but that most crucial imaginative element seemed to be eluding her at the moment.  The only things that she could think about were reports and emails and all of the many tasks that she could be doing to get ahead in the office and a silent, sickening feeling was settling in the pit of her stomach.

With a resigned sigh, she gently tossed the pen onto the notebook and leaned back in the chair to take a sip of her coffee.  The cafe wasn’t the most hip place to be; strictly corporate, truth be told.  The people watching was descent, however, and it didn’t require an incredible drive on her part.  That being said, it was not uncommon for her to be the only 30 something in the place.  Setting her coffee back onto the table, she picked the pen back up and continued her aimless gazing at the blank page on the table.

The door chimed and she looked up from her contemplation to see a man coming through the door, a warm smile on his face as he called out a greeting to the other young man behind the counter.  It was like watching a scene out of a John Hughes movie, with the super popular guy walking into the room in slow motion.  Before she even realized that she’d been staring, he had already caught her eyes.  The heat crept up her face very quickly and she’d never been more thankful that her foundation was extremely good at covering up the red of her embarrassment.  A sly smile lifted one corner of his mouth and with a wink, the man made his way toward the back of the cafe where a small group of people were waiting for him.  Once his back was turned, she let her head fall to her notebook and let out the breath that she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

What the hell was wrong with her?!  He wasn’t exactly smoking-hot-male-model material, but she hadn’t been able to look away.  There’d been a moment of recognition and she couldn’t place his face.  Try as she might to get back to her writing, the woman found herself glancing toward the group and the man who was conveniently facing her.  Did she recognize him from the cafe?  He obviously seemed to know the staff well, but was he a regular?

She looked back over toward the group once more and again, he caught her eyes and the two of them just stared.  He knew that she was watching him and she knew that she was busted.  Frozen for what felt like an hour, she looked back down to her notebook and began to write.  Still no story ideas flowing so her composition was a grocery list.  After that the woman didn’t dare look over at him again.  She didn’t particularly feel like having them ask her to leave for making the customers uncomfortable.  Once the grocery list was completed, a fresh cup of coffee was in order.  She got up from her table and made her way to the counter.  As the guy behind the counter handed her the full mug, she steeled her nerves and blurted out her question.

“So, who is the guy that came in earlier- a friend of yours or just a regular?”  Her delivery was sufficiently neutral, but the man still gave her that knowing look that all people have when you mine them for information about anyone of the opposite sex.

“He’s a regular.  That whole groupp, they come in every weekend for a few hours, why do you ask?”

“No reason, he just looked familiar.” she replied and returned to her table.

When she settled back in to the seat disappointment hit square in the chest as she realized that the boisterous group of people had all left along with her chance of working up the nerve to go and talk to him.  The little angry voice in her head began it’s chastising for being a scardie cat and letting yet another moment get away.  This was the point at which she reminded her inner voice that there was a reason that she was in her thirties and single to which the voice responded that she shouldn’t forget that she also had three cats and would be getting a rocking chair and shot gun for her birthday.

There were no stories flowing from her mind, pen, or any other useful instrument at all, so she sat there with her cooling coffee, doodling eyes in the margins of the notebook.  She’d been so absorbed in her own inner monologue that the approaching figure made her jump when he got to the table.  He hadn’t left after all.

“Hi.” She said and immediately began choking on her coffee.

“Hi.” he replied, “you ok?”  She still couldn’t speak so she gave him a weak thumbs up. “Sorry to bother you, but I kind of noticed you staring at us back there and this may sound stupid, but, have we met before?”

“I’m not sure, but you look really familiar.  I’m sorry to have stared, it’s not a habit, promise.” she said.

“You can stare all you’d like,” he replied with the same half smile he’d given her earlier, “May I sit?”

Her heart was now beating faster and she was sure that her inability to respond was clearly plastered all over her face, “Sure.” she managed to croak out.

“Don’t worry, it’s just a cup of coffee.”  he said, sitting across from her and somehow those words untied the nervous knot in the pit of her stomach and she finally smiled back at him.