Cup of John Doe

May 4, 2011
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I suddenly forgot how to count to five.
And yet, I knew perfectly well the two of us had been staring at each other for more than five seconds. Holding someone's gaze any longer than the "appropriate" five seconds or less is considered to be…a "move." Or so I’ve read.
"S-Sorry?" I stammered.
I'd been reading too many magazines lately, written by these "experts" on romance. Hold his gaze like this, and tilt your head like that, and the next thing you know “you’ll be dying in his arms in no time!” I was insane enough to peruse all those magazines from the racks by the bookstore entrance, while I sat at my usual table, right by the café counter, and enjoyed the view...
Maybe those writers did know what they were talking about. Either way, I would probably just screw their “advice” up.
But he never seemed to notice.
His lips started to curl upward, at first, and made his five o'clock shadow even darker. (Not to mention, that simple movement of his mouth always sent me to Cloud 900—because Cloud 9 just wasn't high enough for me.) His lips then flattened into a straight, professional line.
And for a split second, I imagined running my hand down his prickly cheek, like those models always do to the guys in those men's shaving commercials.
As he glanced down at the keyboard, his black, thick-rimmed glasses started to slide down the slope of his nose ever so glacially; he gently pushed them up with his thumb. With limber fingers of a pianist, he tapped a few more keys, before his silver eyes gazed into my very soul…
"Your total is $5.71," he repeated.
My suddenly damp and clumsy fingers searched for currency in my wallet.
"Uh—wait—don’t you have a membership card?" he asked me. In the corner of my eye, I saw him pointing at my wallet, his finger in front of my downward face.
Dear Lord, he actually remembered! I could’ve died in his arms; I sure wasn’t breathing.
“Oh, yeah,” I timidly answered—with a smile, of course. “Gotta love that ten-percent discount!” I could hear the cheese oozing from my words—it was, indeed, that cheesy. My fingers continued to slip against the smooth plastic surface of my membership card before I could hand it to him.
Our fingers touched, but only for a moment. No, two moments: one when I handed my card, and the other when he returned it. He didn't touch me when I paid, though.
"Thanks," he chuckled and handed me my receipt. “Your venti hot mocha—low-fat milk, whipped cream, warmed exactly at a-hundred-forty degrees—is comin’ right up.”
"Thank you," I giggled. My cheeks, and then my neck, and then the rest of me warmed up, and I hadn’t even sipped my coffee yet. I quickly pretended to scan my receipt.
"And will I see you again…?" he asked.
Dang it, I hated when I had to think. Thinking and breathing and walking without falling on my face were totally impossible whenever I saw him…
Wait a second.
I looked up from my receipt, and he was wearing that toothy grin of his that made me come back to this bookstore café every single day.
"Maybe..." I bit my lower lip and glanced up at him from behind my mascara lashes. Oooh, those snooty magazine romancers would have applauded me.
We both laughed. I even found myself tucking a lock of my hair behind my ear, out of shy habit. He smiled back at me and adjusted his barista cap over his chocolate hair. As he walked away, he grabbed a Sharpie without another thought and started scribbling my order on a fresh venti-sized cup. He even drew a little smilie face.
I sighed.
That was the extent of my relationship with him. And yes, I say "him," because—as often as I've seen him (it's been nearly two years now), and as much as I hate to admit it—his name eludes me...

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