First Encounters (c. 2011)

What does a 19 year-old girl know about love? Not much more than having bigger eyes than her head can carry, gleaming with hope and curiosity.

March 23, 2011

I bury myself into my mattress, unwilling to awake to this gloomy Wednesday morning. As my knees gain back strength from my corpse-like sleep, my feet role onto the carpet. Worried of the time, I hustle, and scramble my books and things together. As I leave the warm interior of my building the rain falls onto me politely, with a soft pat against my shoulder. Keeping me dry is my black umbrella-silhouetted raincoat, preparatory for spring. As I cross the street, I remember that it is only the beginning of my week and I dread to walk through the glass doors ahead of me to get to class.

I decide to take the stairs after class, in some sort of attempt to make my day seem worthy of something. Up six flights, turn right, unlock the door, proceed, and I dress back into my fleece pajamas, snuggle back under my soft blankets and read my new book. It’s crisp pages feel nimble against my delicate fingertips. As the minute hand on the clock hits fifteen after twelve, I see a familiar name pop up on my telephone: “New Message From CJ Richards”. He’s been my unrequited crush for three months, even though we’ve never formally met or spoken of anything of importance. Nervously, I slide my phone open and read that he wants to meet me for coffee… right now. I have a reading assignment due in two hours and I’m only half way done. He pleads. I willingly give-in. Grabbing my book, black raincoat, and black purse to match, I head toward the door. I take the post-war elevator down six flights and my stomach turns. My anxiety kicks in when my feet reach the outside air and I grab a Vogue menthol cigarette from my purse. I light the end, holding it gently to the tip of my lips. Ignition, and I inhale deeply, breathing in the toxins, enjoying every scent of my nervous need. Calming me down, the shaking of my hands slows to a soft tremble. Within minutes, I inhale the entirety of the stick of shredded paper and tobacco and toss it to the side of the street. With no sign of my rendezvous in sight, I mosey into the Dunkin Donuts on 7th avenue, the median of our two apartments. I stand in the line for my cup of coffee, tip the cashier, and proceed to an empty table. As the janitor mops around my feet and chair, I open my book.

I wait, sitting with my Dunkaccino in front of me. Wisps of coffee and hot chocolate catch my nose as I drink from my cup. My face puckers as my tongue burns under the hot coal fire of the drink. I should know better. I’m anxious, looking up from my book, to the street, and back onto the pages of my book. As the door swings open, letting the cool breeze in, the feet of pedestrians walking by floods the coffee shop, even if they’re just passing by. My excitement is almost too much to bear, but the mixed feelings I have about this date keeps me grounded. I don’t even know his voice. I don’t know his height, his hands, or his eyes. This is almost a blind date. My hands begin to shake, as the man sitting diagonally from me flips through his newspaper in search for the crossword puzzle.

As my nerves finally subside and I become more interested in my book, I feel a slight tap against my shoulder. Looking up, I see CJ’s bright face, smiling down on me. In such excitement, I jump up from my seat and greet him with a hug and a slight kiss on the cheek. He does the same, and as his kiss graces my cheek, his scent encompasses me with a sweet nostalgic recollection of what first encounters are like. Nervously jolted again, I sit back down, hesitantly close my book and place it on the table, next to my coffee. When he sits down across from me, I see him for who he is and I want to learn every inch. He nervously taps the edge of my book’s cover, as if to start a conversation about the book, or as if to allow the knowledge inside of the book reach into him, through the tips of his fingers. He glances up at me from the book, smiling endearingly, and continues our conversation of the surprising similarities between us. An hour and a half later, five minutes before my class, we decide to leave. As we walk outside to part ways, the sun is shining, and the mass of gloom from the morning withers away.

Thursday rolls in with the theme song of St. Patrick’s Day resonating on the wind. My friends dress in pride, in my country’s colors of green, orange, and white, and we make our journey to 5th avenue and Central Park. Chewing on an endless piece of mint, I excitedly join the crowd of eager Irish. I cheer for the first reign of bagpipes as The High Kings’ “The Rocky Road to Dublin” plays on repeat in my head. We can easily feel the extreme warmth of spring’s glow coming around the bin, reaching down from the buds of the trees. The grey bearded man next to us in the crowd is holding signs to be recognized by the marching crowd. In laughter, we join his antics as he plans to receive much attention, shouting the same Irish names repeatedly into the parade. Between Sean, Kathleen, Liam, Bridget, Patrick, and Mary, he has his hands filled with signs, assuming that at least one-fifth of the people in the parade are named one of those names. As we stand in the succession of the parade our toes grow tired and unpleasantly cold from winter’s wind piercing through the shadowed street.

Nearly one in the afternoon, CJ makes his way over to the parade. We engage in each other’s running thoughts of today’s fortune of good weather, great pride, and Irish posterity. As we walk through the sea of people, I grab his arm so he doesn’t lose me. When the crowd parts, he grabs my hand, and holds his there, next to mine.

Finally I see the true meaning of overcast skies and winters warmth in progression to spring; it’s for days like these, when I have someone to share it with. With the most endearing smile, we part, in hope of our next ensemble. As the sun hits his eyes, they glimmer the purest shades of dark, sky blue, forest green, and gold. I linger to catch another sight of the sincerity in his eyes. I subside and walk toward my apartment, knowing that in this man, I find warmth.