Almost Lovers, Almost Strangers

I come to this café way too often, I basically live here. The baristas recognize me, and remember my order. I subconsciously remember their work schedules like,” oh, it’s 4, why isn’t Kelly here today?” and hope Kelly’s doing okay.

I spend my days, and even a part of my night, here. I come here to read, to study and to write. Mostly to write. Not to be a walking cliché, but everyone has a writing spot – and no, words just don’t flow the same way in my dorm, with my roommate playing loud Christmas music. I come here to slam away on my keyboard, and it has become my safe space. I remember coming here when I was homesick, and when I had lost my phone and credit card after a Halloween party, and when he had just dumped me.

He knows I’m always lingering here. I know he knows because he’d jokingly make fun of me for “hiding in my cave”. There’s no way he walked in without knowing I’d be here. Because I always am.

I look up at the exact moment he waltzes in, and instantly curse under my breath and text my best friend at the same time – which didn’t work out too well, because I actually ended up texting my editor instead. His nonchalance never fails to amaze me, how he can just walk into a room – which I am obviously in – and be so unbothered, while I’m here struggling to breathe.

I’ve never mastered the art of pretending to be strangers, to go back to not knowing someone when you know them. You know every inch, and every irrational fear they have. How can I pretend to not know him when I have the fact that he’s afraid of ice cubes memorized?

It’s hard to focus on how my fingers dance over my keyboard when he’s over there, and even though I maintain my composure on the outside, my mind is racing and all I can think is how insanely cute he looks and how much I want to die in this very moment.

Maybe it never gets easy. Maybe I’ll never be him. Maybe a part of my heart will always flip and I’ll forget to breathe when I look at him, just for a moment. And when the moment fades, and I realize that we are, in fact, strangers, I glue my eyes back to my screen and pretend to type something due in the next hour when I’m actually typing this.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time you’re seeing them since the tragic fallout, or even the hundredth time (if you go to the same university and are always in close proximity). No amount of mental preparation is enough for the exact moment you run into an ex, because how do you act in front of a stranger who’s actually not even close to one?


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