I change shapes just to hide in this place
But I’m still, I’m still an animal
Nobody knows it but me when I slip
Yeah I slip, I’m still an animal
-Miike Snow, Animal
This will probably ruin everything, if I haven’t already. I think derailing things before they start is one of my superpowers.
I have to write about it because I don’t want to write about it. In fact, I cannot NOT write about it.
This is how I know I am a writer.
I’m writing this at a coffee shop. Writing is a lonely art and being in proximity to others makes it feel less so. But there is another motivation why I visit this particular shop.
It was a slap in the face, really. That’s the best way to describe it. She was at one of the registers and I was standing in line. It was the first time I’d come to this coffee shop.
I saw her and my jaw slackened. She looked, smiled. I smiled. She looked away, still smiling.
The worker at the other register took my order to my disappointment. I left feeling slightly dizzy.
I wonder if she had the same feeling.
I don’t know quite know how to explain. It’s attraction, yes, but feels beyond that. It’s confusing. Doubt erodes instinct. Is it really shared, or just a projection?
It’s happened to me once before. There was some unsaid thing between us read only with the eyes. I discounted it, especially because we were both married and our spouses were right there next to us when we met. It was too disturbing to address. So, I forgot. I saw her not too long ago and that unsaid feeling was still there even after almost ten years. She’s still married.
This is a feeling that I never had with my wife. Is it part of why we aren’t married anymore? I’ve been divorced for nearly six years. I clumsily looked for love for some of those years but eventually decided that it is something best left to fate. It’s scary to let go. Now this.
I didn’t know how to talk to her beyond a smile here and there. I swear that another worker was always the one to take my order. But finally she did. I didn’t say anything.
Things happened when I was young that made me overly protective of my heart. It’s held me back and I’ve suffered. Unconscious choices I have made to protect it have blown up in my face. Introspection and hindsight has revealed what I have denied I was doing for the majority of my life. So now I fight my old patterns. I write the hard stuff, I make myself vulnerable because it’s the thing I want to do least.
Real life is a different beast.
I was sitting outside the coffee shop writing and she sat at a table next to mine. Someone met her and talked to her briefly and then she was alone again. I wondered how to strike up a conversation. A car drove by with what looked like ponies’ heads sticking out each of the rear passenger windows. They were white Great Danes. Great White Danes. “Holy crap,” I said, hoping she’d respond. I mean, it was an appropriate response. They were huge, even by their breed’s standards.
She was facing away from me so I couldn’t make eye contact. I started to cave to my fears. Then she stood up to leave. “It’s J, right?” The question blurted out past my will. “Yes,” she smiled. “I just wanted to say that I’m just a little smitten with you. That’s it. I just wanted to say that.” She smiled wider, a little blush showing on her cheeks. I’m not entirely sure what was said next. I was acting completely out of character. Alarms blared in my mind as if part of me was escaping like a fugitive. I think I gave her my name. She shook my hand and went back to work.
Even though it was a completely genuine confession, I thought, what in the fuck did you just do? Surely I had just creeped her out.
And this is how I make my life as difficult as possible.
It turns out that I didn’t creep her out. We even had a nice conversation at the coffee shop recently.
This is normal. This is what people do every day when they are interested in each other. But it’s a big deal to me. I’m completely out of my safe zone. This is when the trouble starts.
I think too much. I analyze things to death. I prepare for rain on a cloudless day.
Old patterns. I question my motivations, fearful that I’m repeating past mistakes.
I’ve asked her if I’m making her uncomfortable on more than one occasion. She says no, not at all. It’s relieving, but a part of me has a hard time believing her words. That part is afraid of scaring her away. As much as I preach about letting things unfold organically, I have the hardest time practicing it.
Irony. So much irony.
The other day I found myself within the perfect metaphor for how I’m handling this.
My roommate has a bird that has become infatuated with me. It immediately flies to my shoulder whenever it sees me. It waits outside the door to my room until I come out. It becomes jealous when I talk on the phone, biting my ear hard.
I was leaving the house and the bird flew through the doorway just inches before the door closed. Had I closed it, the bird would have been toast. It landed at my feet and I freaked. SHIT SHIT THE BIRD IS OUTSIDE. I scooped it up as my roommate rushed out the door with panic painted on his face. I handed the bird back to him, my heart in my throat. As I began to leave again, it broke free of my roommate’s hands and flew out after me again. This time it landed on the railing right next to the door. I tried to roughly snatch it with both hands and it took flight.
“No, no, no, no, my bird, come back,” my roommate desperately pleaded as he chased after his bird and then out of sight around the side of the house. I held my breath as a sleeper wave of guilt hit me. All I could see in my mind was the bird flying up, up, up. Then the bird flew back from around the side of the house and landed at my feet again. I reached down gently and picked it up.
Jesus. I’m a mess.