My bus got in earlier than I had wanted. It was cold out, with snow on the ground, and I was ridiculously dressed in only a t-shirt and a light, unbuttoned flannel in place of a coat. My jeans had seemed substantial enough for the weather, but at this point they were rigid and held the cold air in an uncomfortable pocket around my man parts.
I walked the short distance to the cafe and bought myself a caramel macchiato, then promptly left to find myself a station across the street. It was never an option in my mind to sit there uncomfortably for half an hour waiting to be seen. In case the girl saw me before I saw her, I’d have to have kept my back straight, and stay conscious of whatever dreary expression may have floated across my face. No thank you! I opted to stand in the cold.
The chill was a mental battle for me. I was stuck out there, and the coffee granted only minimal comfort and relief from the frigid air. I sipped my drink rhythmically and hopped from foot to foot to keep my furnace going. Even out there I was still at least somewhat a victim of social anxiety, forcing myself to look busy, to play with my phone, as if anyone would know that I was standing there to spy on my date before I met her.
She had said she would be wearing a green knit cap and a white scarf, and while I had seen several close matches, the exact combination hadn’t come up. One girl in a white scarf caught my eye, and I watched her for a time hoping she might dig a cap out of her bag, but no such luck. That girl was beautiful, but I felt like an asshole for hoping. I told myself that if my actual date turned out to be a dumpy, middle-aged man, I would no less give him a shot. I become guilty easily.
When I did see her I just about fell over. Literally— I saw her walking right towards me, tried to casually brace myself on a news box that wasn’t there, and then had to awkwardly catch my balance with a sharp step backward. When I executed my graceful maneuver we totally made eye contact. I looked away then, which was absolutely stupid, and as she walked past me she smiled and said, “Careful!”
She crossed the street and headed for into our coffee shop. I only got a panicked glance at her face when she was a mere two feet from me, but I could see that she was plainly beautiful, with long strips of hair hanging down from her cap to frame her face. She was quite small, and walked with tiny but determined steps, clutching her scarf to her stomach in an adorable bundle.
She trepidatiously stepped through the doors and into the coffee shop, peeking through first and craning her neck to look for a person who should have been looking for her. I knew I should walk over, introduce myself with a laugh, but I thought I’d ruined it. I was filled with an immense nervous pressure which I didn’t think I could overcome. I had worried the girl might not be everything I’d hoped she was when we were talking online, but upon seeing her I thought she had trumped all of my expectations. Suddenly my concern was that I’d be the one to fall short.
In retrospect I could easily have passed our earlier encounter off as me being absent minded, distracted by my near fall, and not initially noticing the color of her scarf. Something like that. I wasn’t thinking clearly, however, and there no longer seemed any possible way I would not come across as some sort of freak who waits across the street from his dates and falls over when he sees them. Which is exactly what I was, but nobody should ever know that.
I watched as she got up on her tippy-toes to peek over the shoulder of the man in front of her in line. I really wished I could tap her on the arm. I’d have loved to meet her. When she sat down I watched her for a little while, playing with the sleeve on her cup and taking tiny, exploratory sips of her beverage. I had essentially given up though, and was by this time just running through ideas in my mind to explain my absence by text in a way that wouldn’t make her feel down about herself when she got home.
But no, I couldn’t let that be our story. I summoned my courage. I flexed my near-frozen fingers, turned around and marched my humble, idiot self to the crosswalk to hit the button. Waiting for the light to change I watched through the window as she stared long and disappointed into her cup, then checked her watch. When I did get the signal I nearly ran across the street, bolted to the doors and pulled them open.
She stood in front of me, making her way out. I held the doors open for her and stepped to the side. She smiled at me. I smiled at her back.
I got another coffee and sat down to warm up.