This is a Philadelphia love story. Like many internet love stories, I was hooked before we’d even met in person. I was in so deep; so certain it would be perfect once we finally were in the same space, present with each other.
I was obsessed with you. Showing everyone I met pictures of *that* *look.* I could almost feel you under my fingertips, imagining the smell, the taste – fantasizing what it would be like when you first brushed my mouth.
I came so close on Wednesday night. I knew you were nearby, but unavailable. I sat with my friends at a table, only a few steps from you. We laughed, there were exquisite flavors and phenomenal table service but in the back of my mind, I was distracted. I’ll own it. I couldn’t stop thinking about you like a 16-year old watching the 3-dots bubble on Instagram, energy restless. I even went to the bathroom at the restaurant, just to lean into the kitchen, hoping for a peek at you, but nothing; leaving with hands smelling faintly of rose soap and eye contact deferred.
It was fine. I’m an adult. I knew I’d see you Friday morning, so I could wait another 36 hours, right? I spent the next day and a half running my mouth about you. Genuinely, I would not COULD NOT shut up about you. Coworkers asked if you could just come to me – I checked – but no.
Friday came and I was up at 5:30am, throwing my belongings into my 7-year old Jessica Simpson suitcase from Ross, checking out of the Cambria, jumpy with anticipation and nerves. I knew the next hour was going to change me, and baby, I was ready to be changed.
I called a Lyft. It was a quiet ride over to your place. The driver and I didn’t need to talk at 6:52am. I think somehow, we both knew why I was out that early. I stepped out of the car in Fishtown, breathing in the cool, crisp morning air and trying to treasure a snapshot in time, pre-you.
Pushing open the heavy wooden door, I walked in, clearly the first person to cross the threshold for the day. Inhaling the scents that said YOU. I could hear it like a delicate chime in my head, YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU. Nervously, I walked up to the counter; I couldn’t look the barista in the eye when I asked if you were in. She said you’d be out in 30 minutes, with your coworkers.
I spent the next half hour tapping my foot, trying to write out my thoughts in a journal while impatiently nursing a hot chocolate topped with cotton candy sugar floss. Shifting my weight from foot-to-foot, perusing the onsite market of spices, fair trade coffee and Turkish mugs. My thoughts keep coming back to you; false starts had me lift my gaze in hope and drop it in mild disappointment each time.
At 7:35, your coworkers roll out of the kitchen, fresh for the day. I try to casually side-eye the entrance, thinking you must be next. 7:50, 8:00, 8:07, 8:15 go by with no one else coming out. At 8:22 I ask the barista if you’d be showing up for the day – only to hear the most crushing words – “oh they’re not in until 9:00 or so.”
I. WAS. CRUSHED.
It was 25 minutes to the office and I couldn’t afford to be late; I had put in all this work to see you. I told my friends we were finally going to meet. I was mortified. Embarrassed. I left with frustration and shame and rage in my heart – if I had asked for you by name, why did the barista say you were going to be out at 7:30? Why not tell me you didn’t start until 9?!
I spent the whole ride to work venting to my Lyft driver about it; we were on the same page that this couldn’t be the last time I tried. I had to do something else. I frantically texted Adam and Dana, telling them that no matter what, we would be there to see you at 8:59am on Saturday morning. Even if I had to WALK across Philly, it would be worth it. I wasn’t going back to Chicago without you knowing how much I was willing to put into this relationship.
Work was torture. I ranted to anyone who would listen about you; my Craigslist missed connection. I was Captain Ahab mournfully telling the tale of my romance with you, my white whale. Willing the hours forward, clawing seconds through the rest of the day (and night).
Saturday morning. I swiped on some lip balm and a beanie, attempting a casual but fresh-faced look for our first meeting. Adam and I drove quietly to your place. Slowly walking in, eyes hopeful. Not there. I stepped up to today’s barista, asking in halting pauses if you’d be in at 9, explaining yesterday’s wound. “Ah!” her eyes lit up; she made us coffee and said you’d be out soon.
Adam and I sat with our coffee, trying to talk about anything but you. I briefly wondered if it would be weird that I brought a friend, but hey, he drove and also, I wanted a witness to this historic moment. I’m almost at the bottom of my coffee cup.
This has now become ‘a thing.’
People are rooting for us – friends on Instagram, people in Chicago, in Philly, Friday’s Lyft driver – they want to see the joy of our first contact. I’ve been fielding messages for days. Suddenly the barista approaches on my right with you. My quick intake of breath as I thank her for facilitating this moment. My hands, shaking, reach out for you, holding you reverently.
You feel warm. Fresh. Glorious smells wafting off of you. You’re an eat-with-a-fork kind of beautiful. And so I do.
My kingdom, my heart, for this donut.
— IF THIS SOUNDS FAR-FETCHED I AM HERE WITH RECEIPTS
Oh, my friends. Trust me.