Monday, July 29, 2019

Valerie: My Friend

It began innocently enough.

I was having a rough day. One of those hot, sweaty, fast-paced, never-ending, "What am I even doing in a coffee shop in Brooklyn in the body of Valerie Stewart" kind of days. Everything was frustrating, needlessly aggressive customers, snide "real housewives" types, leering college boys... just everything that cold be thrown at me.

Then my saving grace. At 2:30 PM, almost right on cue, in walks Kevin, aka Silvertop. He gets his coffee, gives me his usual nod, and goes over to his usual seat by the window to read.

We hadn't talked much since I ran into him a few months ago at a competing coffee shop and had a really nice conversation. Just chitchat in passing - he keeps to himself, and I am usually pretty swamped.

Today, I needed to vent, and there was no Maddie or anyone around that I felt like I could. So I made like I had to go wipe down some tables and approached.

"Hey - mind if I sit?"

He looked up from his book - one of those weird nonfiction things he likes reading - and first seemed surprised and maybe a little confused, but he gestured in a friendly way.

We got to talking again, I started to go off on what was bugging me about my job and my life, and I got a few minutes in when he raised a finger. "Hold on, I just want to be clear on something. This is one of those conversations where you just want someone to hear you out, isn't it? You don't actually want me to try to offer any solutions, right?"

I smiled. "You've been married."

"Long time ago, yeah," he said bashfully.

I went on and on and honestly I don't even remember what I was annoyed about that day, but the underlying theme is that sometimes it sucks being Valerie the Coffee Girl.

The next time I saw him, he asked how I was, and I said fine, and he eased me for giving a generic answer, so I elaborated on some things that were not fine.

The time after that, I must have gotten him talking about his life - about being a divorced father of two, a small business owner, just generally getting his perspective on things. I'm always wary not to take up too much of his time, because he's reading all these books because he enjoys them, not because he's waiting for someone to talk to, but he still lets me chat him up for ten or fifteen minutes during my shift.

And then somewhere along the way we became friends.

I had already kind of looked forward to seeing him, just because it was nice to see a friendly face. And then when we start talking, I thought, it's nice to have a guy to talk to - as much as I enjoy inhabiting the world of women, there are ways that I still feel excluded, where I feel like I have to fake it, where having the complete matching set does not make me a true woman underneath.

But to Kevin, I'm... I don't know. A nice younger woman, someone to keep him company. I gave him my phone number and told him he could text me if he wanted to, and the second I did that I thought, "Oh, shit... what am I hoping to get out of this?"

I mean, I really screwed myself up a little bit. Without realizing it I had developed like, a really serious crush on this guy. And it's so weird, because yeah, I've crushed on guys before - specifically Ryan, but if we're being honest it goes back to Josh and even, way way back, things I didn't want to let myself feel for Phil when I was Lauren. But it's different because this guy is... well,  different.

He's older than my real self, he's experienced, he's smart and funny. He has kids! It's weird that I should find myself interested in him and entertaining the notion that he might be interested in me!

I'm trying to play it cool - honestly I'm trying to completely pack it away, because he hasn't really indicated that he thinks of me that way, and I feel silly getting my hopes up.

But during our texts he mentioned oh, I have my daughters on weekends and they're getting really tired of chicken fingers and spaghetti. I reminded him that I cater sometimes and have a few cooking tips and tricks up my sleeve... any interest in learning some of my techniques?

He said sure and asked if I was free Thursday night.

I am.

It...  it feels like a date, right? This is suspiciously datey.

I couldn't believe it. I wasn't even sure I wanted to do anything, it just fell out of me, and when it was out, I only halfway wished I could take it back. It just felt weird, because I haven't ever really pursued a guy this way. As Valerie I am so accustomed to being pursued that it never occurred to me that I might like someone enough to make the moves on them.

It's almost annoying that I have been the one to push for him - like, hello, can you not see what's in front of you? But that might be what's so appealing to me. The idea that he might be a little immune to my looks. I like that.

I... am very nervous. Surprisingly so. I don't know what's coming next. At least I have a few days to figure out what to wear...


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