Indulge Me, For a Moment.

*A short story I shared with you in 2019; I was re-reading it and the editing bug hit, so some changes were made and now I’m reposting it. Enjoy.*

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Sometimes I imagine that he had lived. That he didn’t stop breathing at 26 years of age. We find each other once again. It is like a story, he and I, a story that I both live and write. Here it is.

That autumn evening, they enter the local bookstore a few minutes apart, her first, him second, neither aware of the other. She naturally gets lost in the Fiction section, trailing her fingers over endless book spines as she passes them by, pulling a few out here and there to gaze at plot lines in the hopes that one or two will capture her attention. (Many do.) Over in the Poetry section, he skims through collections that remind him of just how much he misses writing poetry; he wishes that real life and a lack of time hadn’t taken away his dedication. Or had he given his time away? He shakes off that unanswered question and continues to peruse the volumes.

The soft whir of espresso machines and various aromas from the nearby café eventually pull them out of their respective stacks and over to the order line. They’re both armed with books that require more time and investigation over cups of coffee; her with three novels that giddily bear a Jane Austen-like feel to them, him with four intriguing anthologies by the latest Poet Laureate. Soon, she places her order with the barista behind the counter and steps to the side to wait. He does the same a few minutes later and takes a spot a few feet away from her. While they wait for their drinks, they respectively study the other patrons in the café. It is then, during their mutual analyses, that she happens to gaze in his direction–at the same time that he glances over at her.

Her eyes widen with instant recognition. A beaming smile spreads across his face.

“Order ready for Sabrina.”

“Large coffee for Riley.”

If neither had recognized the other, the calls of those two names would have provided all the information they needed to incite familiarity. They approach one another.

“I can’t believe…” she says, her voice trailing off.

He doesn’t reply, still stunned that she is standing before him. Twenty years had passed them by. Twenty entire years.

He grabs their drinks while she finds a table for them in the corner of the café. He glances at her books and grins. “Were you in Fiction?” he asks.

“No surprise there. And you were lost in Poetry.”

“Literally and symbolically.”

Silence had never been an issue for them. In the past, they always had plenty to discuss; theories to riff about, silly jokes to share with one another. And yet, now, a silence steals into their midst. It is not a passive silence, however; their prolonged, respective stares are heavy with meaning, the kind of indefinable expressions that will soon require defining.

“It’s nothing like our old spot, is it?” Riley then asks, gesturing around them.

“Nothing at all, save for the books and the harried girl behind the counter making all the drinks.”

He laughs. “Sounds familiar.” He remembers being scheduled with her one afternoon, watching her deftly prepare drink orders without batting an eyelash at the long lines. That day had stayed with him long after he moved on from the store, for reasons that, at the time, he couldn’t explain. “But you were never harried. You were always so cool.”

“I played it cool, my friend.”

“Do you live in town?”

Sabrina nods. “I just moved back. After college, I did some soul-searching and ended up in Phoenix, Arizona. ”

His eyes gleamed. “So you did go. Remember how much you wanted to live there? The whole mythical bird thing?”

“I do. And it was transformative it many ways. Moving away from family, being on my own.”

“So you rose out of the ashes,” he says, smiling warmly at her.

That ticklish sensation in her chest. Yes. Her heart had skipped a beat when he smiled. She breathes through it, deciding not to mentally explain it away. It happened. “I did. What about you? Tell me where you’ve been. When I last saw you, you were headed back to Texas.”

He had indeed moved back to his home state to go back to college. Ultimately, however, rather than pursue a degree in Poetry, he chose a Business path instead and eventually obtained an MBA. He had moved back a year ago and was now a finance executive at a firm in the city.

“The poet became an MBA? I would have never envisioned that.”

“Same here.” He pauses. “Are you married? Kids?”

Sabrina shakes her head. “No and no. I was engaged for a bit but it didn’t work out. You?” she asks.

“Divorced. We had a good year but she was still in love with her ex, so she decided to go back to him. While we were married, I should add.”

“Riley, I’m so sorry.”

He waved his hand. “Therapy does wonders. I’m in a great place now. Are you still writing?”

“Five books published. Working on number six, the long gestating novel.”

Riley applauds softly. “I’m so proud of you. You stuck with it. I knew you would.” He gazes at her. “When I first met you, I could see it in you, that love for writing. It was amazing. And it helped me, believe it or not. I was so inspired by you.”

“And I had a massive crush on you. I actually thought I was in love with you for a month or so.” She allows the words out without thinking, deliberately leaving them there, in the air.

Riley gazes at her, not completely taken aback. “I had a feeling.”

“Could you blame me? You were a poet, for goodness sake. My writer’s heart was toast.”

They both laugh, still aware of her admission, still aware of those stares in between the silences, still able to allow levity to join all the other elephants in the room.

“I thought about it,” Riley says quietly. “I thought about you and me.”

Her heart quickens once again. She waits for him to continue.

“But I pushed it away,” he continues. “You were only 19. I was 21 and not living my best life, as you know. I was so toxic, just so bad for all the people around me. I was–”

“It’s okay, Ri,” she says, gently squeezing his forearm. “We weren’t ready back then. We both had to do a little phoenix work with ourselves.”

He looks down at her hand. Yes, he hears in the back of his mind. It is the answer to a question he’s not yet sure of, but welcomes it all the same. Gently, he takes her hand.

She remembers to breathe.

“And now we meet again, in a bookstore, no less,” he says. “Could you fall in love with me again, for longer than a month this time?”

Yes. They had always been waiting for each other, waiting to cross paths once again. She recognizes that now. Sabrina laughs. “It depends on the fancy restaurants you take me to and all the poetry you write me.”

“Done and done.”

They walk toward the registers at the front of the store, hand in hand. He buys her books. She buys his. In the the parking lot, they promise to see one another the next day.

*

She learns, three months after their wedding, that the Poet MBA can also do wonders with plywood: he builds her a home library, complete with all five of her books and room for his first poetry anthology.

Adjoa on a Monday.

This post was originally  published on February  16, 2018 and updated today, February 3, 2021. The months are entirely coincidental. Or are they? Read on to learn what my dream job would be and why it remains my dream job, three years later. 

Ever since my early twenties, coffee shops have been my true love. Many a coffee shop had me inside of it; ordering a cup, listening to the beans whir in the grinder; hearing the quiet hum of conversation as patrons did everything from chat with each other to type away at their laptops for whatever projects they were working on. (I almost always think the laptop-bearers are burgeoning novelists.) When I worked at my dearly departed Borders Books (see memories here and here), one of the areas I was assigned to, other than at the register or the info desk or shelving books, was the cafe. There, I learned to make a variety of espresso-based drinks, recipes that I still remember all these years later. It was, in a way, my first foray in working in a coffee shop. And I loved it something awful.

Naturally, I’ve always wanted my own shop. So in my mind, my shop would be called Adjoa on a Monday. Adjoa is my Ghanaian day name for ladies born on a Monday. The decor would unsurprisingly be rustic-y with a French touch; the French part is me, as you know, but I’ve also grown to love the rustic idea for a while now. Funny, huh? This Square Peg, who favored not-busy, not-busy, super modern spaces now longing for burnished wood finishes and Mason jar centerpieces? Girl, people be changing…

*All images derived from my boo Pinterest.

Anyway, further details about AOAM:

  • Free WiFi. I love the idea of people inhabiting that space and working on whatever their working on.
  • Open mic nights. At Borders, I freely took advantage of sharing my poetry with audiences. That college student had plenty of spurned-love poems to share, thank you very much.
  • Themed evenings every now and again. Paris jazz spot Tuesday. Speakeasy Fridays. Etc.
  • An assortment of staffers of different ages and backgrounds. This one is important to me. When I worked at Borders, a true pleasure was working with everyone from fellow college kids to part-time History professors and everyone in between. It was amazing.
  • A mini-bookshelf/donate-a-book area. Because you know books have to be involved.

More ideas abound. Will it happen one day? Will I venture out and start my own business and finally see this coffee shop of mine with my own two eyes? *Kanye shrug* I’ve never been ashamed or shy to dream out loud. Perhaps that’s the first step?

What thing/idea/venture/adventure have you nursed for ages? I’d love to peek…share it in the comments below.

And now…

friday

Fabu Fashion Throwback: Dressy.

Coming back at ya with another fashion throwback to what I wore to our annual three-day religious convention. This time, we’re going back to 2018. And no surprise: my styles, again, had a theme. This time, I wanted to solely wear dresses. This was July in Texas and although we’d be inside, I just wanted to be comfortable and easy breezy.

1. Look at my bald head! I miss the dome. Okay, keep it moving before a field of ✂️s pop into my head.

2. The first two dresses came from Amazon. I think this was the first time I bought clothes beyond casual, home stuff from Amazon and I have nothing but great things to say. Awesome finds; reading the comments is such a help. Dress #3 came from ASOS. Chic, no? Loved the mixing of patterns, the styling, the shape.

Good times. Bon Tuesday.

Fabu Fashion Throwback: Skirted.

All the way back in 2019–why does last year seem so long ago??—I attended a three-day religious convention that was all kinds of invigorating and refreshing. I really miss gathering together. Safety first, however. Anyway, planning what to wear to a special event during a Lone Star summer is always interesting. The good thing was that the event location was an indoor conference center so the AC would be blasting and I didn’t have to consider the pools of sweat factor.

Here’s where I’ll tell you that I realized some time ago that I’m a thematic dresser. Hardly a surprise; my life is filled with plot lines and themes, why not what I choose to wear? Perhaps it’s dresses only, or a particular color scheme or pattern, etc. So, while wondering how to combine some new pieces with what was in my closet, I decided that skirts would be my theme.

Skirted.

1. All my skirts came from Ross. By now, you know that Ross is my go-to spot for stylish clothes for awesome low prices.

2. My shoes clearly have a theme, too. See if you can find it.

Last summer seems like ages ago. Being with my friends and spiritual family hasn’t changed though, thanks to Zoom and that virtual life. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to feel the hugs and see the smiles of these people I love so dearly.

Happy Tuesday, y’all.

Blogtober #19: Geneva.

In 2004, I visited dear friends who lived in Pontarlier, France. Since Pontarlier is located close to the Swiss border, my friend Clara advised that I fly to Geneva, Switzerland, and she would pick me up from there. Yes, thoughts of Switzerland danced in my 24 year-old head.

It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen.

A few days after arriving and settling in, we drove back to Geneva and spent the better part of the day there. Here are some photos of that day.

• Those photos (and all the photos from that trip) were taken with a disposable camera, after which I developed the film at our local Walmart. If all those words seem foreign to you, this is how photography happened pre-smartphone.

• Switzerland sparkled. It gleamed. I felt like I was walking inside a jewel.

• I want to go back.

One of the best trips I’ve taken. Do you have memorable places you’ve visited? Pretty sure you do; feel free to share them in the comments.

Blogtober #16: How it started/How It’s Going.

Started on the left, Going on the right

This is the latest trend I’ve been seeing on social media, the how it started and how it’s going challenge. I don’t do the trend thing, by and large, but this one I like. Seeing your growth, seeing your changes. I’m all about that self-assessment life.

Your Square Peg was about 8 years old on the left. Newly arrived to the US, about to start school, grinning for her Dad’s camera. On the right, still here, missing Dad but hopeful for the future, still grinning. I’ve come a long way. Happy to be here.

Bon Friyay.

Blogtober #11: Sundays.

Sundays were my favorite growing up.

Comics. Some of you out there remember newspapers. I still love them. When I was a wee Square Peg, my pops would buy the giant Sunday version of The Washington Post, which meant a voluminous comics section, which meant a color comics section, at that (the weekday comics were black and white), which meant me spending hours upon hours in our basement, reading and laughing at the antics of Beetle Bailey, Blondie, Cathy, and breathlessly seeing the latest in Peter Parker’s unrequited love for Mary Jane Watson. It was glorious. I also loved reading the Style section and perusing others parts of the paper, filling my mind with facts and people and stories. I’d wait for my Dad to finish reading and then he’d over a section to me. These were our moments and I remember them well.

Coffee. This didn’t only happen on Sundays, but the memory of Sundays and doing this is vivid: my mom would drink her warm cup of java and leave a little behind for me. I’d “sneak” into the kitchen and finish it up, swooning over her masterful mix of coffee, cream, and sugar. Glorious. These days, I can’t handle the caffeine like I used to, but boy, did I love standing by the kitchen counter and taking in that warm sweetness.

Feeling nostalgic today. Did you have a favorite day growing up?