From my talk at With/Out Pretend’s Unresolved Feelings III on June 20th, 2018.

Illustration by Louise Reimer, for With/Out Pretend’s ‘Portraits

THEN:

You asked me for my name at a time when I felt particularly invisible. This was a really difficult period in my life. I was feeling too ugly, too worthless, too single, too alone, too sad, too fat, too brown… It was hard not to smile back, as you flashed me a quick smile, and complimented my name. “That’s beautiful!” — Your smile was genuine, your eyes were bright.

“Thank you… Actually, my mom made it up by accident — she was reading a name in Arabic, and she thought it was pronounced ‘Ameema’, but the real name is pronounced ‘Omaima’.” Now I was rambling, and feeling stupid about it. You were obviously busy, you didn’t have time for this — God, what if you think there’s something wrong with my mother? You probably don’t even get how this could happen, or understand the nuance of how similar Urdu and Arabic look, and how easy it is to mispronounce or misread a word. Maybe I should shut up, and stop explaining the similarities between the Urdu and the Arabic alphabet.

I started to pull out my phone, so I could pretend to text, so you didn’t feel obligated to respond… But, instead, you laughed — a crisp, fresh sound — it (still) reminds me of opening new hardcovers, and stepping in fresh snow, and dipping my toes into a lake. “I love that!”

The lines around your eyes crinkled, your laugh was carefree and you put your whole body into it. I could feel my whole body light up in response.

The fact that you remembered my name the next week was particularly touching. Maybe you were just good with names, but it felt like you knew I needed this, and you made me feel seen.

NOW:

I look forward to seeing you every morning. Seeing you is how I start my day off right. I think it’s safe to say our conversation is the brightest spot of every morning — we pick it up every day, right where we left it off the day before. I love this familiarity — when I stop by with my coworkers, they notice it too — they ask how long we’ve known each other, and are always amazed when I tell them it’s only been months.

When I don’t see you for a few days, I crave this connection, this conversation. I crave your smile… The thrill of electricity when our fingers graze, as you pass me my complicated, espresso based beverage.

Is my barista flirting with me, or are they just doing their job?

There’s a certain kind of intimacy in you knowing and starting to prepare my order, the moment you see me, before I even walk up to the counter. You know me well enough to notice when I change the part in my hair. I ask you about your family like I know them.

I’m self-aware enough to know that in the beginning, you were just doing your job. Nice and friendly is just who you are… But now, as you put a complimentary pastry into a bag, and give me a wink; as you blow me a kiss, when I walk out the door — I know that this is more than just customer service.

But what are we? I know we’re friends. Not just on Facebook, but in real life as well. But is that all we are?

It feels like something more.

Am I in love with my barista, or am I just craving human connection?

The intimacy of seeing someone every day: Grazing fingers, locking eyes, A full-body smile (You know the ones I’m talking about — the ones that you can feel from your crinkling eyes, all the way down to your curling toes). It feels like this is more than just friendly.

I’m prone to overthinking, to falling quickly, and falling hard. I’m prone to becoming overattached. I know that. But still… this spark is tangible — it’s something for sure. It feels like something *more*… More than what? I don’t know.

I don’t know yet if it’s love, or friendship, or kinship — but it feels like the first time I tasted those delicious scones (which I pretend are the only reason I come in so often) — buttery, warm, savoury — and immediately, I was hooked. (This is now becoming a love letter to your scones).

I guess… at the end of it all, I’m just a girl… standing in front of her barista… asking if you want to get coffee sometime — somewhere where you aren’t the one who makes it?

Storyteller, Bookworm, curator of themed playlists, & tailored book recommendations. I write about books, unruly bodies, & my own lived experiences.