Like Me This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

November 13, 2013
I never thought of love as a real thing until I stood on line at that Starbucks in the mall. Yes, a coffee shop. I know, it’s all very clichéd, but I promise that it was the most special moment of my life thus far.

Her face was not the first thing I saw. Nor was it her hair or her clothing. It was her tote bag. Weird, I know, but all I remember thinking was, I want that f**king tote bag. It was, in fact, a Harry Potter bag, with the cover from the third book – my favorite – on it. Hermione and Harry riding the Hippogriff, you know the one, I’m sure. Every self-respecting American knows what I’m talking about.

I was a manic Harry Potter fan. I’m talking fanfiction, message boards, Comic Con pictures with Tom Felton and Rupert Grint. She had my biggest passion in life printed on the bag on her arm. Honestly, at this point I hadn’t even noticed whether the carrier of the bag was a boy or a girl; all I knew was I wanted to be this person’s best friend.

She was standing right in front of me in line, telling the person working the register what kind of scone she wanted, and I was just about to poke her shoulder when I heard her say, “… and a tall iced peppermint mocha, please.”

And it was too late. If I’d heard her voice or seen her face before poking her, I wouldn’t have done it.

Because let me tell you about love at first sight. It’s not like the world stops moving, like you read about in romance novels or see in movies with Julia Roberts. My heart stopped. And then started. And then stopped. In quick little spurts, it tried to start up again at a normal pace. My palms got sweaty, and I really wanted to suavely pay for her drink and ask her to dinner, but that wasn’t going to happen. Maybe that’s the antisocial, bookworm, high school drop-out in me talking, but if my whole “poke her in the shoulder” and Harry Potter obsession weren’t enough to clue you in, social protocol isn’t my strong suit.

But she did turn to me, and my heart did have a small seizure, and I did still really like her bag, so I decided to say so.

“I really like your bag,” I said. “Love it, actually.”

The girl smiled, in that polite way that people do when they are complimented by strangers, and looked down at her bag fondly. “Thanks, I got it at the Barnes & Noble where I work. I think they’re out, though.”

“Oh, really?” I said, trying to not fumble. She was beautiful. Really long dark red hair – probably dyed – with a knit beret and big blue eyes. She was wearing gray jeans, a knee-length draping sweater, and black, flat-heeled boots. “That’s too bad.”

“Yeah,” she said. “Well, thanks again.” And she went to wait for her drink at the other end of the counter.

Once I ordered my own peppermint hot chocolate, I weaved my way through the crowded shop – it was nearly Christmas and the mall was packed – and found my own place, patiently waiting for my name to be called. I saw the girl again, and when our eyes accidentally met, we exchanged a pleasant smile. I pointed to her bag and gave a thumbs-up like a complete goof, and she chuckled.

The barista behind the counter called, “Kristen!”

The girl, my dream girl, went up to retrieve her tall iced peppermint mocha, thanked the barista, and then left the Starbucks, melting into the holiday crowd of children screaming to meet Santa and anxious women and men with wish lists from their in-laws.

In the end, I realized I actually knew quite a bit about my dream girl. Her name was Kristen, she worked at Barnes & Noble, she liked the color black and peppermint, like me. And Harry Potter, of course.

If this were a movie directed by Gary Marshall, I’d probably be cast as Richard Gere, the successful businessman, who’d go to Barnes & Noble the next day with an iced peppermint mocha, and ask for the employee named Kristen. And Richard would probably do this for weeks, and they’d exchange pleasantries before he disappeared mysteriously.

But the problem was that I wasn’t Richard Gere and, unfortunately, Gary Marshall was not God.

And so, in the end, I’ll always wonder about that girl at Starbucks. Wonder if at a random visit to the bookstore I would see her again. Wonder if she really liked Harry Potter or if she just got a really great employee discount on the bag. And most of all, wonder if she was like me. Not an introverted, book-loving drop-out, no. But if she was a girl who could fall in love with a girl, like me.

The sad part of being like me is that you never know. A romantic run-in at a coffee shop with tinsel and mistletoe everywhere can never be more than one-sided. There’s too much risk, too much unknown, because the majority of the world isn’t like me. Statistically, my dream girl very likely likes men and probably has a boyfriend, because anyone as gorgeous as her has to beat them off with a stick, I’m sure.

So the first time I fell in love was for about three and a half minutes, but I’ll always remember her big blue eyes, and thank J.K. Rowling for introducing me to my soul mate.

When my name was called, I took my hot chocolate, thanked the barista twice, and left the shop to do my Christmas shopping with a smile on my lips and the taste of peppermint on my tongue. F

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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