Wednesday, October 26, 2011
She made the caramel latte with such a natural flair, unpretentious but self-assured. You know, like someone who knows that it’s capable of many wonderful things, but is in no hurry to get there. It was almost as if she was taking a day off just to make my coffee and was enjoying every step of the process. Pour the milk in the metal carafe, place it under the steam wand and warm it up with just enough artistry and at the right angle to have a substantial layer of foam to top the latte. Grind the coffee beans fine to give the espresso shots a smoky texture when the boiling water extracted those mystical flavors. A few stripes of caramel syrup to top the creation with which I would gather enough courage to tell her that she had been on my mind since the first time I saw her.
“Do you believe in signs?” I asked her almost out of the blue.
She smirked while looking down as she was tidying up her work area. She vacillated, looked at me like figuring where I was going with this conversation, and then almost under her breath said “Yes,” like she was remembering that she did in fact believe in signs. She was quite pleased with her answer. It was almost as if for some reason she had forgotten it a while back and I had just reminded her.
“I don’t even know where to start,” I said. “It’s just that the whole thing is so fantastic that I just have to say it. If I told you that I was thinking about you on my way over here, would you believe me?”
“I don’t know,” she smiled. “I don’t think so.”
“It’s kind of odd I know, and I apologize for being so forthcoming, but I’ll tell you why. About a month ago I was doing some Christmas shopping with my family in the mall by the border and I saw you in the coffee shop. I wanted to talk to you, but it didn’t seem appropriate. I’ve been thinking about you since then and now I run into you here! That has to mean something right?”
She chuckled genuinely. If I was telling the truth, it was kind of charming I guess. But even if I was making the whole thing up, as far as pick up lines is concerned, this was a pretty good one, I thought. I don’t really know what I was expecting. I mean, I know I wanted to ask her out on a date, but what were the chances of her saying yes? At the same time, as if the situation wasn’t odd enough on its own, I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable.
“I guess all I’m really saying is that I would really like to get a chance to talk to you, get to know you a bit more. I have a feeling we would get along really well.”
“Well,” she started, “I have to say that I appreciate you being so frank, but I don’t know. I would feel weird giving my number to a stranger, I mean, it’s not something I do.” She smiled again and continued “but you are talking to me now, right?”
“Yes!” I said holding my breath as a glimmer of hope peaked.
“Well, talk then,” she said amused.
I figured I had about five minutes to have a convincing argument before more customers arrived. She had to have some information about who I was and what I did for a living. She needed to know that I was genuinely interested in getting to know her, and that I was not just flirting frivolously. I told her about some of my adventures as a reporter which she found entertaining, and she told me that she was finishing her professional practices as a psychologist. As you can imagine, I was thrilled with every bit of her that she shared, I thought it gave me a slight better chance of seeing her again. She was exactly the kind of person I imagine her to be: quirky, sassy, funny, genuine and smart. We were hitting it off famously, I thought, and in my mind there was a good chance we could set something up. Then the door opened and a customer came in. If there has ever been a more inappropriate intruder, it had to be that lady.
“I’ll tell you what,” Tania said as she looked at me. “I like that you are audacious. I respect that and for this reason I’ll take your email. I might write you,” and she handed me a pen and a piece of paper. My time today was up. It was like one of those moments when you are walking amid some foliage and run into a hummingbird. It hovers for a moment right in front of you flickering its wings so fast that they are just a blur, but you feel like you can almost touch it. But it’s only an illusion, a moment later it flutters away in a dash just as gracefully as it had arrived.
I wrote my email address in my best handwriting and gave her the note. She took it, verified it, folded the paper in half and placed it in her back pocket. It was a bittersweet flavor for me of course. Admittedly, more sweet than bitter yes, but still. I started backing away, slowly, as the customer intruder lady who had been looking the stuff on the retail shelves approached the counter and I didn’t want to get in the way. I thanked Tania for the coffee, which was delicious, and was about to leave when a fleeting thought crossed my mind.
“It was really nice talking to you,” I said to her. “It was just a moment, but I enjoyed it a great deal. I’ll be checking my email. But you know what? I have a feeling that even if you don’t write, we’ll run into each other again sometime.”
She smiled as she directed her attention to her customer and I left.
Yes, I checked my email every hour in the course of the next few days, which soon enough became weeks, and later months. On more than one occasion I thought about going to the coffee shop where she worked to say hi, but it didn’t feel right. I thought there was probably a good reason why she didn’t write. At times, I considered the possibility that she might have washed her pants with my email still in their pockets. What if she had the piece of paper in her car and it was blown away in the freeway? What if she put the note in her purse and it was stolen? Or even worse, what if she just threw it away as soon as I left? Whatever it was, I had to be stoic. I had to stand by what I felt the very first time I saw her. I recognized her. She had always been with me, transcending time and existence in our present form since back when we were still light traveling across the universe, there was no doubt. I knew it in many different levels, and in some odd way I thought she knew it too.
Nine Months Later
I was on my way to the newsroom to work on a story that was due, when I ran into tree of my best friends. We joked for a bit as we hadn’t seen each other in a few days and they ended up talking me into having sushi with them before going to work. There were two possible sushi places we could go to, and I picked the one closest to my office. We took the second next table by the window facing the parking lot and ordered our food. As we waited for our lunch, we caught up on current happenings and events in our lives; it was a period of many exciting changes for us. I sat in a bench with my back against the wall facing the door, like Wild Bill.
A girl walked in, but I couldn’t really see her as my friend in front of me blocked my sight. She ended up sitting next to me on the bench, taking the table right by the window. I was involved heavily in the conversation with my friends when out of the corner of my right eye I saw the way her hair fell on her shoulders as she leaned to read a book. I turned my head to see her delicate and unmistakable profile.
It was a warm Thursday of September, and I have to agree with Keats: Who cares about the songs of spring? Fall has its music too.
We’ve been together since.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
|Photo by: Edgar A. Morales|
I spent the rest of the day in a haze. It was a warm feeling. I felt reassured in many respects. After she left the coffee shop there was no doubt in my mind that I would see her again. I didn’t know when, but I was willing to wait. After all, what are a few days, months or even years in comparison with the eternity I already spent getting to this moment? If time was the price, it was an easy bargain to make. The most difficult part was learning that she was real. And she was.
Christmas came and went. Days trickled, as they inevitably do, and in my everydays I now looked for her out of the corner of my eyes each passing moment. I thought I saw her in a New Year’s celebration where I arrived just as the bells were tolling, but she wasn’t there. Everyone else was, but not her. I walked into the celebration amid fireworks, cheers, people hugging one another celebrating new beginnings, and champagne cups reached for the ceiling while spilling bubbles. Those with company kissed as a vow to their love in the coming year. I embraced her memory, and stole an imaginary kiss from her, wherever she was.
I was on my way to visit my parents on a Sunday evening. It was the end of January then. I drove on the freeway trying to decide where to buy some dinner as there were a few options down the road. My apartment back then was on the East Side of San Diego County, not too far up north, but still about 20 minutes away from the Tijuana border, which gave me plenty of time to think. And dream.
It was almost like a game. I played in my mind what I would say to her if when I saw her again. Back in those days, the power of manifesting one’s desires was gaining some popularity, and it didn’t seem as too farfetched of an idea. It makes sense to me. Want something? Think about possible ways to make it happen, one of them may work, right? So, multiple scenarios went through my mind and as you might expect the most conservative plot landed us in an exotic Micronesian island where we raised our five children in a hut near the shore and crystal clear waterfalls.
The freeway stretched and twirled in front of me and the tip of the Tijuana mountains became visible at the distance. It was unusually clear for an evening, the sun still long ways from the horizon. A few miles before reaching the border there was a small strip mall with a grocery store, a couple of fast food restaurants and a coffee shop. Ever since I saw that girl, every time I passed ANY coffee shop my heart raced. It was as if the possibility of running into her increased tenfold in one of those places. I decided on what I would get for dinner, which was actually a family request, and after leaving the food in the car I walked to the coffee shop, which was a few only a few stores away. As I was approaching it, I slowed down my pace as the totally irrational thought that I might run into her overwhelmed me. I kid you not, I was laughing at myself for being so silly. I hesitated for a short moment before opening the door to a Café void of any customers.
The girl behind the counter greeted me with a sincere smile, and my heart sank with such an overwhelming emotion that I overcame any hesitation, and continued walking in her direction. It was her alright. Mind you, I was in absolute shock. How could it be? Was this really happening to me? Some heavenly deity must have been getting a kick out of the whole thing. There she was in all of her splendor, wearing a barista apron and a pony tail, and this time she was smiling at me. I know, it was her job, but I didn’t care! If this was destiny, fate, divine providence or simply pure good ol’ fashioned plain luck, I was going to take it. That moment had been given to me, to us, by whatever force moves the universe, and all I had to do now was follow the motions. So I did. I mean, the whole situation felt so matter of fact that I figured it would turn out fine. Our conversation went on something like this:
“Hello, what can I get you?”
“I don’t know, what’s good here?” The truth is, I knew the menu by heart, but I was looking to stretch our interaction for as long as I could. She looked back for a second pretending to glance at the menu before turning her porcelain face once again to me.
“Have you had the Caramel Latté?” I knew she was going to say that. I knew it because a few years before I had worked in a coffee shop and whenever someone asked for a suggestion, the Caramel Latté was the default response.
“You know what? That sounds really good. I’ll get a medium one.”
“Ok, what’s your name?” she asked me.
“Edgar,” I said, and after she wrote my name on the paper cup I asked “and what is your name?”
She looked at me for a second (which felt like an eternity), quizzically, like measuring my intentions and I just stood there. Sincerely.
“Tania,” she finally said with a smile and proceeded to make the Caramel Latté.
I honestly felt completely overjoyed. The woman who shook my innermost being was standing in front of me just under a month from the first time I saw her, and the universe felt completely aligned. I was thinking of what I could say to start a conversation with her, but any question that popped into my mind sounded like a plastic attempt at picking up a pretty girl for a just another date. I finally decided to tell her exactly what had happened. I thought it was the best thing I could do, after all, it was the truth.
To be concluded: HERE.
♠ ♠ ♠
Thursday, October 13, 2011
I have always been the romantic type. I love to daydream, writing poetic-ish scribbles, and chick flicks. Yes, I am not ashamed to admit it. In fact, I think most guys like them, but have been ingrained to deny it lest be mocked by other guys who secretly like them too. But this is not a psychological piece. This is a love story.
The year was 2003, holiday season. I was doing some Christmas shopping with my family in a mall in San Diego close to the Mexican border. It must have been early afternoon on a weekend day. As you can imagine, the place was packed with thousands of voracious shoppers frantically going through sales and discounted merchandise searching for the right bargain (or the closest thing to it) to gift their dear ones. Lines in stores wiggled through aisles, people carrying multiple bags from different stores carrying a single item in each one, disorganized displays from so much perusing, and the occasional cry of a child who had too much mall for one day. Since crying wasn’t much of an option for me, I opted for the next best thing at the moment: a cup of espresso.
I told my mom that I was going to wait for her in the coffee shop next door while she finished in that store, then we could move on to the next one. And then to another. And so on for the rest of the day. I remember that I was in a transitional period back then. I had just gotten a new apartment in East San Diego, and a new job while completing an internship with a local newspaper. As I walked amongst the masses, the only thing in my mind was how long it was going to take to finish the mission. I walked in to the café and the ambience was just as hectic: multiple blenders going off at the same time, line reaching the entrance door, cheesy Christmas music playing in the background, and the baritone mumble of everyone talking at the same time carpeting the whole place.
I was lucky enough to get a table right away because a couple left as I was walking in. I decided to wait for my mom and sister hoping the line would dwindle down by the time they got there. I sat with my back against the door facing the crowd. The place looked and felt like a vortex with the center of energy all the way down the lobby around the espresso machines next to the registers. Everything and everybody revolved about that center of caffeinated gravity. People flowed ceaselessly back and forth, lingered at the center waiting for their drinks to then hastily escape this micro universe with a smile and a latte in their hand. This is when magic happened.
I try to remain humble about this sort of things. The truth is that there is a bunch of stuff we don’t know about how the universe works. Is everything pre-determined and we are just following an inevitable fate with our ultimate destination already set in the cosmos? Or, is everything a random mix of events affected by our every action? I don’t know. What I do know is that I was sitting in that café minding my own business when I felt her presence before she even arrived. I smiled discreetly while contemplating everyone flowing in and out. I remember distinctively feeling really good about being in that place, sitting down, smelling the coffee, hearing sudden bursts of laughs mixed with the steam of the espresso machine frothing the milk. The door opened and closed behind me for the 11th time and everything stopped.
I looked over my right shoulder in the direction of the entryway which lead to the registers only to be overwhelmed by a presence unlike any other. I was barely able to register a gentle silhouette which moved at a different pace than everyone else. There was a great deal of elegance in her demeanor. She was completely present in the moment, not concerned about getting in line or to a table. She savored each step she took, and her motion was effortless. I couldn’t see her face, but was able to distinguish a graceful expression as she walked by to look at the retail display. Only 3 seconds had passed, and it was already an impossible sight. How could it be? Why did I feel this mesmerized? Was anyone else seeing this?
She reached out to grab a blue cup, index finger slightly above the rest, then changed her mind and went for a red one instead. She wore her wavy hair down and faced the shelves, so I still couldn’t see her face. But it didn’t matter. I didn’t need to. I already knew. She was from a time that does not go by. Ethereal. I got up. The door opened again and a gust of wind blew in only to caress her face along with the warmth of a beam of sun. It was almost as if the evening was already missing her company outside. That’s when I saw her smile. I stood for a moment not knowing how to act. Walking up to her seemed so banal at that point, and yet, there was nothing else I could do. I moved on pure impulse, but slowly. She went back to looking at possible gifts and I walked in her direction. I finally stood at an arm’s length, and could not utter a word. So much wholesome beauty, because you could easily tell her soul was generous and unblemished.
I pretended to look at the retail, although in front of me there was only a $499 coffee machine. She finally made a choice and walked away to get in line to pay for her items. I stood still in front of the coffee machine. She paid for her things and got a latte. I remained in the same spot. She thanked the baristas and walked away. I could not move. She walked past me in all of her beautiful poise and I saw her face one last time before she left.
I felt overwhelmed and so very thankful. I now knew it for sure. I finally knew she was real. She existed and her presence had manifested in the coffee shop of an outlet center during holiday season for me to know that we were going to be okay. A few moments later my mom arrived. She saw my silly smile and asked what was going on. “Mom,” I said, “I just met the love of my life.” She looked at me funny, you know, the way sometimes moms do, then I added “I just met the woman I am going to marry.”
Part Two --> HERE <---