When I first saw you, you were twirling your pen between your index and middle finger, deep in thought and might as well have been contemplating on what the future held. Maybe you were.
I was sitting two tables away, my chair facing your direction and a book laid open in front of me: Inorganic Chemistry with its colorful graphics of molecules dotting the cover, connected. Maybe I wanted to connect with you then, but I shook my head, thought I was too pathetic and carried on reading.
I saw you again after quite some time. It was just the start of spring and the flowers have just blossomed open, the leaves have become greener, and the sun shining warmly as it crept into the window of my favorite coffee shop. It was probably yours too since the cashier asked whether it was the usual or you’d like to try something new. You’ve been hanging out here since, bringing the same old black notebook and still, you twirled your pen, lost in thought. The rays turned your hair brown as you sat by the window in the red ottoman and you squinted as you peeked out the window. Were you waiting for someone?
Spring became livelier by the day, the bermudas growing taller in my front yard, the orchids that my mom has been nurturing turned lovelier even more and as they continued to blossom, my curiosity did too. You sat by the same space everyday and by the hour, I had to order the same old thing so I could act like I was studying too when really, I was just building the courage to approach you and strike up a conversation. It’s never easy when you’re the girl. But the chance never came. We came and went, just like the spring.
Summer arrived quickly. I haven’t been inside the coffee shop for a month since. I wondered if you would be there but I also wished you weren’t. I was trying to drown the curiosity that was bubbling continuously inside me; it bugged me between study periods, raced across my mind during lunch time and even danced around my thoughts when I prepared myself for bed. I haven’t seen you around in school, too.
The soft rattle of the wind chimes above the door got your attention. You looked up and our eyes met for about half a second and then I looked away. I approached the counter and smiled, flattered, when the cashier asked me where I had been all this time. As I tried to answer her questions, I threw casual glances at your table and faltered when I saw another girl directly beside you. Funny that I didn’t notice her before. Was she your girlfriend? Surely…
As quick as I could, I paid for my iced coffee and bolted out the door and under the rays of the sun that scalded my bare skin. The pavement was hot and my shoes were wearing thin on the soles. The shop windows were presenting their annual summer sale and as much as I would have wanted to look through those racks, I just wanted to get home. Summer became dreary yet bright, rainfall missing in action. The air became humid yet stale, and I could feel my plants starting to die. And just like that, so did my curiosity for you.
It has been 2 months since the start of my college year. Studying in an Ivy League had a lot of pressure; more than I thought I could bargain with. Sleepless nights ensued, endless flipping of pages, and jotting down notes that filled half of my notebook (and it was only after 2 weeks that I had to buy a new one). Autumn has come, turning the trees and its leaves inside the campus into an array of golden brown, yellow, red, and even green. The fallen ones were strewn around, littering the pathways from building to building. The wind became stronger every day until I couldn’t stand to be out too long without a hoodie to protect myself with.
Flitting thoughts of you continued to crowd my head. I didn’t know you personally, you were just a boy from school, and yet your presence had greatly affected me. Maybe it was the kindness I saw in you that day you helped an elderly woman cross the road. Or the time you dropped a particularly huge bill inside the jar for UNICEF. Or yet, it was that time that you saved me from a bad fall with the teacher in journalism class when you answered the question with wit and humor, taking the attention away from me (I was too embarrassed to even say thanks). Perhaps, I was yet to discover.
Autumn continued to come in a shower of color, and when I began to decide that I was most definitely over you, I stopped myself, thought I was too pathetic, and carried on with my academics instead of also wondering where you could be.
Winter, ah, my favorite season. The white, fluffy stuff always captured my attention. It reminded me of a vague memory of spilling slush all over my shirt when I was young and having my father wipe the front of my blouse with his handkerchief, and I having to step over the fallen drink, listening to its crunch under the heels of my shoes. The icy breeze made my teeth chatter, my hands shake, and my knees lock that it takes me a long time to cross from one building to the other. And yet, I still love its uniqueness.
It’s almost a year wherein I would have to celebrate my infatuation or cry over it as I try to bury it six feet under the ground. I remember you being aloof in some classes, with a demeanor that was like ice; hard to break yet you looked fragile as you focused and zeroed in on everything that was discussed. In a way, as I trudged down the walkway with the snow that continued to fall, I am reminded of you. I didn’t even know your name since we only had one elective that didn’t even require a whole lot of discussions; just basic instructions and we were off to write a creative output. True, I’ve wasted dozens of opportunities in that little coffee shop. My heart squeezed a little when I remembered your smile, like it had become a secret between you and I because you rarely did that outside that shop; or when you brushed past me by the entrance, I on my way in and you on your way out.
We have become very much like the four seasons. Our lives have continuously shifted in a pattern that we had no choice but to be accustomed with. We were totally different, and yet we cross paths and exchanged places for some time without the acknowledgment of one another. We came and we went.
Suddenly, I slip and land on my back. Air whooshed out of my lungs in a pace that left me coughing so hard as I sat up and tried to brush off the cold snow that were starting to melt and drenching my clothes, my rear. I could have cussed in frustration but a hand stretched towards me and I pull on it without hesitation.
“Thanks–” I had started to say when you cleared your throat and I had to look up. And stared.
After three months, it’s you.
“I remember you,” you said, “The girl I always saw hanging around in the coffee shop, yeah?”
I remembered nodding but I was frozen with giddiness. Who would have thought I would see you again?
You smiled and my heart squeezed; not in pain but with joy because after all this time, you finally had it directed at me.
“Oh yeah. By the way, my name’s Dean.” You said and offered a hand. “You okay now?”
I shook it. Despite the woolen gloves I wore, I felt the warmth of your hand. The same hand that twirled the pen over and over, having me locked in a trance most of the time, back at the coffee shop.
Talk about serendipity. Was this even destiny?
“Thanks,” I said. “My name’s Jean.”
In that briefest moment, I saw the sincerity of your smile and the interest in your eyes.
The snow continued to fall. And so did I.