Did you notice how Autumn crept in? It snuck in on the Summer’s coattails. The solstice hasn’t passed yet, but you can smell it in the air. If you look out the window, you can see the maple trees across the way have leaves tipped with yellow. The mornings are crisp, as well. Though the afternoons still feel quite summery.
I prefer to call it Autumn, not Fall. Autumn makes me think of color and crisp apples, pumpkin breads and hot cider. ‘Fall’ leads the mind to more unpleasant things – dead leaves, mold, and skeletons. Perhaps it’s simply a strange and abstract association from my childhood. But to me, Autumn is a time of comfort and coming together. We bring in the harvest, we return to school, we retreat indoors to evade the cold, and we share our bounties of food, knowledge, and warmth.
Spring is often associated as a time for new beginnings, but any gardener knows bulbs are planted in Autumn. I would proffer that this is in fact the season of new beginnings.
And if you’ve stuck with me this far, then you must be a soul of inquisitive nature and romantic inclination. You must be every bit as interesting as the imagination could conjure. For that reason, I’d like to introduce myself.
My name is John.
Not ‘John’ in that quintessential anonymity that normally characterizes letters of this type, but truly John. That is actually my name.
I moved to this city seven years ago, into an apartment only two blocks away from this very coffee shop. It was a terrible apartment and I’d often come here just to get away from it. A year later, I found a better place in a different part of the city; and two years after that, I moved into my current residence (also in a different part of the city). Yet despite these moves, I still come here almost every morning. In some ways, it has become almost more of a home to me than the place I rest my head.
A few months back, I noticed a pretty woman that comes in fairly often. What caught my eye wasn’t her hair or her legs or her smile – it was the book she was reading. It was a book I had sitting on my nightstand, prepared for me to tuck into that very evening. I’m not one to approach strangers, but I felt daring in that moment and resolved to ask her about it the next time I saw her – once I’d gotten to read a few chapters.
The trouble was that they next time I saw her, she was already reading something new. It seemed a bit creepy to walk up to someone and begin a conversation about an observation you made weeks ago. When you begin a conversation, the topic should be current and relevant. This would be anything but, and perhaps seem a bit stalker-ish.
I felt a bit disheartened, but this person was still a stranger.
A few weeks later, I accidentally collided with another patron as we both rushed in to escape the rain. The encounter caused this person to drop a couple of items they had clutched protectively to their chest. When I helped the collect the items from the floor, I noted that one of them was the next book in my reading group’s line up. I told the person so as I handed it back and met their eyes.
It was her again.
This time, it was her eyes that held my attention – they were such an intriguing shade of blue. She responded politely as she retrieved her items from my hands, then was off to place her order. Her smile was as quirky and endearing as the pea pod earrings that dangled from her lobes. Her laugh was hearty and genuine, which I found refreshing in a world of flirtatious gigglers.
I decided then that I ought to speak to her. Though what would I say?
Certainly I didn’t want to come across like I’d been watching her, but one does take notice of people who frequent the same areas; particularly if those people seem to share an interest. However, “Say, haven’t I see you around here before?” simply isn’t my style. Nor does it lead to the type of conversation I’d like to have. As I mulled over reasons for an introduction, another concern grew in my mind.
In high school, people often assumed my sister was a vegetarian – even going so far as to save the last meatless salad for her in the cafeteria. She wasn’t. People just looked at her and made assumptions based on appearance. It wasn’t a bad thing, it just wasn’t her. Similarly, people here often look at me and take me for many things I’m not. For the most part, it’s been the charismatic, outgoing, athletic surfer type. I am none of these things. I don’t even like the beach! I prefer mountains. My shy and quiet personality tends to come across as rude to people who have these notions about me, and I feel as though they’re disappointed to discover who I actually am.
When thinking of approaching this woman, I felt afraid that she’d form an impression of me and become disappointed to discover the truth of my personality. I am, contrary to popular belief, a homebody. My ideal Saturday night involves a glass of wine, a pair of pajamas, and good book. Most of the people I consider friends are people I work with, though I generally don’t spend much time with them outside the confines of Monday-Friday, 9-5. While most people collect friends, I collect experiences. It’s one of my goals to collect a small vial of sand from every coast in the world. (For the record, I’m not even certain this is possible.)
How could I convey any of this?
I pondered over it for months, hoping she didn’t vanish in the meantime. Then one day, I started writing. I wrote about how Autumn seemed to have arrived early. I wrote about perceptions and the things I’d want someone to know about me, if they could just know something at a glance. Then I put what I wrote into a small drawer in the table where she always sits.
A couple of week ago, she began looking in the small drawer each time she sat down. Perhaps she was waiting for something in particular or just waiting for something interesting to appear. Today, she found this.
Hi, I’m John. Could I buy you a cup of coffee?