She wasn’t anything special, at least, not to anyone else. Any other person would have her pegged as basic or as a stereotype. They saw a white girl getting Starbucks. They didn’t see what I did. I first saw her in the summer. The humidity of the city nearly required an up-do to keep the hair off the back of her neck. She went with a messy bun with a pen through it. It’s a great look, especially when it’s paired with the seersucker pencil skirt she liked to wear. She had brown hair with a shine to it. Do you know how hard it is to get brown hair to shine? I’d never seen it. She kept to herself. I only ever noticed her short button nose when she pulled it out of her book for the first time. Something about channeling anger. I couldn’t see the title. My friend thought calling it a button nose made her sound like a Dr. Suess character. I thought it made her the best part of my dreadful morning commute.
It was a Starbucks in the lobby of one of the city’s many skyscrapers. The only thing we had in common was the building we worked in. It started out as an accident. You know, how a morning ritual falls into place. Not because it’s how you want your morning to go, but because it’s too early to deal with variables, so you just settle in your ways. We started sitting next to each other. Not in a, we know each other way. But in a, in a college lecture hall you always take the same seat, kind of way. I noticed the pattern before she did. We would sit next to each other, she would read, I would write. No words would be exchanged. She would gather her things at 8:25 and go to her elevator. I would do the same at 8:30. You don’t say anything because you think you’re crazy for noticing a theme. I see the same person on the bus everyday, but I’m definitely not talking them.
Then one day it must have dawned on her. As she gathered her things, she paused, just long enough to grab my attention, and she smiled. I smiled back and she was gone, off to her elevator. What does she do for a living? I assumed corporate lawyer. I have no reason for that, that’s just what I thought. Now, the smile was just her being polite. I was just a not quite stranger in a familiar enough place. Then the next day, the same thing. And the day after; until we eventually added it to our ritual. We’d sit, and silently drink coffee. She would read. I would write. We would exchange smiles, and then we would start our respective days. Every day.
At this point, if I have captivated you, you may be thinking, “Ask to buy her a coffee dummy.” I agree, that is what I should have done, but that is a task much more easily thought than done. Technology has ruined a simple task. You see, she mobile orders her coffee, which is a smart thing to do. I should utilize the app myself. But, if I were to ask her if she would like a coffee, I’d be oblivious to the fact that she already has one. If I go for it and just order a coffee, now we are two people with three coffees. That’s so much worse. What do you do with that third coffee? Would you take a full coffee from a stranger? You may think I am blowing this out of proportion, and I am, but these were the thoughts I’d have on my commute to Starbucks every day.
Finally, one morning I had mustered up enough courage to introduce myself. As a person who has seen too many romantic comedies, I psyched myself out. A simple introduction would have sufficed. Instead, I wrote (she sees me writing every day) “Hi, I’m Emmett” on a piece of paper for her to read. (She reads every day.) I thought this was a non-intrusive way to talk to someone before they could finish their morning coffee. I wrote my message and slid it over to her direction. (Pretty smooth right?) And she didn’t see it! It just lay there, unnoticed on the counter. A white piece of paper with three small words in the upper right hand corner. It might as well have been a white flag. This was a sign to surrender. She didn’t see it. But why would she have? That wasn’t part of this intertwined morning routine we found ourselves in.
Weeks had gone by of us sitting next to each other before I wrote my note. And weeks more would pass after. Her seersucker skirt had transformed into navy slacks. It’s no longer a hot, humid city summer, but rather a September that keeps you guessing if you need your jacket each day. We continued in silence, just sharing the smiles. Then, one morning, I was just hungover enough to say something. She got up, and I pulled a headphone out and said, “Hi, I’m Emmett.” She pleasantly returned, “I’m Madison.”
I’m over the moon! We now start our days as usual. We drink coffee. I write. She reads. She gets up to go to her elevator at 8:25. I wait for mine at 8:30. As she gets up, she stops, smiles, and says, “Have a good day.” I return the smile with a, “You too.” Communication folks, we have communication! Then tragedy strikes. Our Starbucks is closing for renovations. It is scheduled to be closed for a month.
Knowing the clock is ticking, I think, what better time to make my move? I have to now. So, one day before the close, I find myself walking with her to the elevator bank. I ask her, “When Starbucks closes where are you going to get your coffee? I don’t know many places around here.” She said, “I’m not sure. I was just thinking about that.” This is perfect. I can suggest a place. We can try it together. It can be bad, and then we will try a different place. We can keep that cycle going until we find our place, and it will forever be our place. Instead, I said, “Huh, me neither.” And I walked away.
Starbucks was closed for 8 weeks. Two months. One-sixth of the year I now go without seeing her.
Finally, Starbucks is open. I don’t see her on the first day. I blew it. All is lost. The second day, the same thing. What was I thinking? I should have just asked her to a fucking Dukin’ Donuts. This is Boston after all. Day three. She is sitting there again, reading, once again, a different book. This girl reads more books than anyone I know. And after realizing how close I was to not ever getting to have a real conversation with this person, this person I shared a part of my morning with five times a week, I walked right up, sat down next to her, and said… nothing. I said nothing. As foolish as this was, it was nice to be back in the familiarity of a morning routine again.
The next week, I again found myself walking to the elevators with her. Realizing we hadn’t discussed our Starbucks hiatus, I asked her, “Did you try any cool places while Starbucks was closed?” She said, “ I tried a few, but I think Starbucks closing was good for my wallet. I mostly made coffee at home.” We kept walking towards the elevators; I’m rattling my brain for the right way to ask her if she wants to get a coffee without sounding like an idiot. What do I care if I sound like an idiot? There’s free coffee in my office. I don’t have to go to Starbucks. There’s nothing to lose. I should just ask her. The elevators are getting close. We split. I say louder than usual, “ Hey, Madison.” She stops to look at me. “Do you wanna… have a nice day!” I walk to my elevator. I don’t know how she reacted. To this day, I don’t know. I didn’t turn around to see. I flubbed my line. I imagine she stood there for a moment to take stock of what she had just witnessed, and then immediately texted every single person in her phone to make fun of me. There is no way to know for sure.
More time goes by. At this point, you may be thinking, “Really? More time?” Yep. I think I first met her in June. I don’t think I actually asked her to coffee until December. That’s a slow play. I’m spoiling the story. Anyway, after a few more weeks of us wishing each other a nice day and seeing each other occasionally on a lunch run, I finally decide I have to shoot my shot.
This is where I don’t look great. This part is my fault, it’s weird, and I admit that. I overhear from the barista that she had ordered a grande cappuccino. Now, I love a cappuccino, but I do not drink them in the morning. BUT, on this particular morning, I did order what she ordered. Why did I do that? That is creepy and I recognize that. My bad. She is waiting on her mobile order. I am waiting on my in-store order. We are making small talk, talking about our plans for the weekend. I mention how long the wait is for our drinks, it’s crazy. She agrees. Then we are interrupted by the barista, “Grande cappuccino for Emmett!” I grab my drink. I look at Madison and say, “Finally, what did you order anyway?” She replies, “Grande cappuccino.” I say, “Oh wow, me too… Do you want mine? I have time to kill. I can wait.” (Pretty smooth right?) And she said, “Thanks, but I’ll wait. I don’t want it to be weird when they call Madison and see a guy grab my drink.” (SOMEHOW. EVEN. SMOOTHER.)
She makes a great point, so now; I’m going for broke. I flat out ask her. “Would you like to get a coffee with me on Monday?” Six months of building up to this. I finally asked. I’m at three quarter court and jacked up a shot. The ball is in the air. Madison said, “Umm... yeah. That sounds great.” Swish! What?!?! Can you believe it? It worked! I truly don’t believe it worked!
I am manic the rest of the day. I’m elated. I can’t believe this is happening. The rest of my Friday is great. My weekend is great. My commute Monday morning, reality starts to settle in. There’s no way this girl is getting a coffee with me today. I understand that people like me. That isn’t a foreign concept. But people don’t like me and definitely not this girl. She’s the total package. She has dark brown hair that shines! She has navy slacks. She reads books and lots of them. She isn’t getting coffee with random guys, let alone, me. I am back down to Earth, and I walk into my Starbucks as I always do, and there she is. No book out. She is just sitting there with her hands in her lap, like she’s waiting for someone, waiting for me. Can you believe it? How great is this? What a gal!
I grab my coffee and sit down. We start talking. Before conversation gets too far, she adds a disclaimer. She said, “Hey, sorry if I was weird when you asked me to coffee. I have a boyfriend. So, in case this isn’t a date, I didn’t want to react with ‘I have a boyfriend’ when you asked me and seem like a bitch. But if this is a date, I don’t want to lead you on, and I want to be upfront with you.” I was obviously disheartened. But I must say… That is the BEST way to handle that situation ever. This girl is so smooth; it’s crazy.
We had a great conversation and went about our days. Admittedly, we now see each other a bit less. I get that. It’s awkward. Can you image having to see a person who asked you out on a non-date, every single morning? I know I would hate that. So, I get it. We operate on our own schedules now, so now our interactions are less frequent, but when we do see each other, it is nice to have a familiar face in a busy coffee shop to break up a still dreadful commute.