There’s a drive through Starbucks not too far from my house. This has been one of few bright spots in my move. Thanks to Will, I am addicted to vanilla white mochas. Many times I stop by to get one, even though it’s scorching hot outside (at least 1,946 degrees. Celsius. In the shade.) But the coffee reminds me of DC, of grabbing coffee before my 8 o’clock sophomore year after unhappily disentangling myself from the tiny bed I shared with Gay Husband.
This day was no different except I decided to stay awhile and people watch. I like doing that too. I ordered my coffee (tall, extra whipped cream) and a slice of lemon pound cake so the caffeine on an empty wouldn’t send me into a shivering, shaking caffeine crash. I grab a big mushy chair near the floor to ceiling windows and curl my legs under me, a book resting in my lap. One day I will actually get around to reading it. But not today. Today I study the Starbucks crowd, a healthy mix of every demographic possible. I watch the couple a few feet from me, a beautiful Latina girl tucked under the arm of a amazingly tall black man who is playing in her hair. The grandma with her long gray hair pulled back in a tight bun, playing with her granddaughter who’s enjoying a chocolate chip cookie as big as her head. I look over the crowd casually, sipping my coffee, and then I see him seeing me about the same exact moment.
He’s tall, but not awkwardly so, flawless, beautiful, chocolate skin, confident stride away from his Benz. Nice suit. From the way it drapes his broad frame I’d say it must be custom made. He reeks of success, of wealth, not the ostentatious kind, but rather the subtle, not so obnoxious kind that you can actually stand to live with. Beautiful teeth. Brilliantly white, dead straight. Nice hands, the kind you wouldn’t mind feeling against your skin. He looks me dead in my eyes. Smiles wider. Dimples. The air around him seems hazy, like he walked out of a bad TV movie dream sequence. Must be the heat.
He approaches me, the long strides denoting the confidence of a man who has his life together.
“Hi,” he says, “I’m D.”
“Hi D. Nice to meet you.”
“And your name is…?”
“Your name is deciding?”
“No, I’m deciding if I wanna tell you.”
He laughs. Soft, like the clinking of plates in a loud room. His laughter never breaks his stride, his dazzling smile never waivers. He notices the book in my lap.
“Good book. Ever read it before now?”
“This will actually be my second time if I ever get around to actually cracking the spine.”
He chuckles again and shakes his head as though he’s realizing that he may be getting more than he expected with me. He squares his shoulders. I guess he’s prepared for the challenge.
“So, besides giving men in coffee shops a hard time when they’re trying to be nice what do you do?” he asks me, his voice soft and intimate, like we’ve been lovers for a lifetime, but still commanding. Brings to mind the vision of pouring honey into a bowl, slow, but sweet.
“I don’t really know yet. I just moved here.”
“D.C. by way of Atlanta.”
“Figured you couldn’t be from here.”
“Is that bad?” I ask, genuinely intrigued about how this man reads me.
“No, not at all. Just a lil’ more stylish and well put together than the usual cowboy chic. Huge Coach shades, hair freshly done, just a touch of makeup without looking too overdone. Cargo pants, wife beater, flip flops, very casual but still very together. Very I’m not trying but I’m beautiful even when I’m casual. And then there’s your nails and toes.”
“My nails and toes?”
“Yes. They don’t match. If you were from here, they’d probably match each other exactly in some god awful bright color and be full of glitter and paint and designs.”
“So, are you trying to tell me I’m pretty or that you’re gay?”
He really laughs at that. I like his laugh. It’s deep and full, rich. Loud enough to show he appreciates my smart ass mouth, not so loud that it’s bothering me. Even the back of his teeth are pretty. Damn.
“Let’s go with the first one,” he says, his eyes never leaving mine, never once straying down my neck to my obvious cleavage on display underneath the thin wife beater. Interesting.
We talk more and to put it lightly, he’s charming as hell. Funny, witty, well read, intelligent. Young, but not so young that he’s silly. Older, but not so old that he’s stuffy. Successful, driven, passionate about the arts. As we talk, I notice women noticing him, but he never once gives them his eyes, his stare never wavering from mine, barely blinking, not glancing away under pretense of being shy. Confidence is an aphrodisiac and he drips it. I sense the way he affects the air around him and, I can’t lie, I’m impressed.
After about 20 minutes of conversation, and 2 finished cups of coffee, he asks me if he can take me out some time. Without hesitating my answer is no. He confidence falters, but only for a moment.
“Are you seeing someone?” he asks me.
“Oh. Do you have like a situation or something?” This I find hilarious.
“Nope,” I reply.
“Are you a lesbian?” I laugh so hard I choke.
“With the exception of a time I got way too drunk off cheap tequila and played spin the bottle in college, no.”
He stares at me, dumbfounded, as if it is completely out of his realm of knowledge for a woman to turn a man like him down. And that’s possibly true. Not too many women would say no to this beautiful man in front of me.
“It was very nice to meet you D,” I say, my voice low and intimate too, hopefully letting him down easy. I walk away, a little more sway in my step than usual because, hey I’m a woman, and because I know he’s watching because he’s probably sitting there with the confused look on his face. I check once I get to my car. Yep. He’s sitting there looking at his hands, like they’ll hold the answer for him. I chuckle to myself and shake my head. They just don’t get it.
I used to be drawn to this kind of man. You know the one; confident as hell, charming as any legal limit will allow. You know, the one with the presence. But as I’ve gotten a little older, it takes a bit more to turn my head. I know myself painfully well. We’d date and we’d both be as charming as we could, I’d be all giggles and giving him the “La Look” that I should really patent because there hasn’t been a man yet who can resist it. He’d be all witty conversation and stories of travel, in hopes he’d seem impressive. He’d be a challenge to me, because I like challenges, especially overtly charming ones whose confidence is so deceptively captivating. Eventually, like others, I’d break his cool, get under his skin, because I always do, because I know people, and he’d tell his friends, “It’s something about her. I don’t know what it is.” I’d get bored eventually, and he’d either desperately seek my attention once he found it dissipating or he’d become so uncomfortable with how much I was able to affect him, he’d search for ways to screw it up so he could free himself of me. Judging by his whole routine, I’d guess it would probably be the latter.
Who I was back then would have eaten the attention up with a spoon. I would have loved the idea of being somewhere with him, the sheer force of both of our respective presences searing all eyes in the room on us. I would have loved the idea of being the woman who, out of every beauty in the room, stole his eye and captured his intrigue. I would have loved the charm and the confidence, and the it that made it impossible not to watch him.
But not anymore. I want something more than that. I don’t know what that something is yet, but I believe I’ll feel it when it passes through.
The truth is, I live a much quieter existence now, more settled than I was before, more grounded and assured of my own air, so I no longer need the force of someone else’s to make mine stronger.
Mostly, I just want someone to watch basketball with. Someone who’ll make me laugh, and I don’t mean a coy, I’m-trying-to-make-you-think-you’re-funny-so-you’ll-feel-good-about-yourself laugh. But a kid laugh. You know how kids laugh; loud and obnoxious, tears streaming down their red faces, that kind of screaming laughing that’s annoying if you didn’t get the joke?
Yeah. That one.