Do Not Touch (if you can)

I am standing in line at the Starbucks that is equidistance from work and home. I am praying they have the Hibiscus Passion Lemonade Iced Tea in stock while staring hard at the menu in front of me to try and figure out what I would order if they didn’t.

I turn around, feeling someone bump into me from behind. It’s a really tall guy. Now usually, I don’t use the word ‘guy’. I pretty much stick to the black and white descriptions of boy and man. But this one, this bumper, is a guy. He is sporting a pale blue t-shirt with a disturbingly deep V-neck and a smile that makes me cringe a little. Everything from his over-gelled hair to his broad and unnaturally tall frame takes me by surprise, and not the good kind. More like the kind you experience when you think you’re walking along a little alley at night by yourself and all of a sudden, you hear another pair of footsteps, in tune with yours. I stare at him for a second.

Apparently, a second too long because a short, long-haired creature magically appears right next to him. She gives me a look that makes me think that she would have absolutely loved, in that moment, to  grow horns just so she could lock me in them. I turn around gracefully and wait for my turn with the cashier.

The woman in front of me is wearing dry-fit clothes and spotted socks (Where were her shoes? Why wasn’t she wearing them? So many questions) and is presumably here post-workout. She is so short she has to tip-toe to speak to the cashier.

“Would you suggest that I purchase the Raw kiwi juice or the Grandine orange juice?” she asks as she walks toward the display shelves.

The stout cashier looks at me with helpless eyes. I rack my brain, trying to understand what exactly he is seeking from me. There is an awkward silence where our athlete patiently stares at the cashier, who in turn, looks at me.

“Umm…”, he starts. For some unknown reason, I am nervous for him because I know that he has no idea what either Raw or Grandine taste like. “… whichever one you like, Madam”.

I scold the side of his face with my eyes. She wouldn’t ask you if she knew which one she liked, now, would she, genius?

“I haven’t tried either. Tell me which one I should get”, the woman persists, her tone turning more and more passive aggressive by the second.

“Ummm…”, he stutters. Great, I think, here we go again. He casts a brief look in my direction before stating, “Raw”.

The woman’s face splits into a surprisingly pleasant smile. “Then Raw it is! Thank you”.

Phew, I mentally relay to the cashier. Now, it’s my turn. To my luck, they do have the Hibiscus Passion Lemonade Iced Tea. I tell the man that I was happy because they didn’t have it the last few times that I had come to this particular Starbucks outlet. You know, just making conversation.

The man frowns at this. “No, we have always had this”.

I laugh jovially. “You didn’t last time! Haha!”

The lines on his forehead burrow deeper into his skull as he looks at me and says, flatly, “No, ma’am, we have always had it”.

I hear a surprisingly masculine snort from behind me. Although I don’t think this is humorous situation, I let the girlfriend have this one.

I nod and hand the cashier my debit card. So much for thinking that we had bonded because of that little incident with the Raw juice. X is right, I expect too much from people. I head to the end of the counter to wait for my drink to be made.

I catch the guy looking in my direction and resolutely avoid eye contact. I feel grateful when my drink finally arrives. I grab it in a hurry and sit down at the first empty table I can find, despite the fact that the AC is directly blowing onto my face. I notice that instead of VEDI, the cashier has chosen to spell my name on the cup as VETI.

How lovely. I am only one black marker line away from being named after the abominable snowman.

Just as I am pondering this, the couple comes back into view. The guy sets his drink down on the table next to me. This action is not well-received.

“Do you want to sit with her or me?” the girlfriend asks in a not-so-subtle tone.

I am appalled at how loud she is and I look around to see if anyone else has noticed. Apparently, not. Everyone is merrily sipping away at their cappuccinos and Raw juices. Meanwhile, I am certain that my cheeks are turning an unflattering shade of pink.

The guy shoots me a quick look, as if trying to decide whether or not I was worth it. Thankfully, he decides that I am not and moves his drink to a table on the other side of the room. The girl follows him and only stops to glare at me over her shoulder once.

I wondered then, about trust and relationships. Here’s what I think. The more you try to preserve the relationship and the more worried you are, the more fragile you are setting up your relationship to be. Our doubts and insecurities stamp large, neon-green signs labelled, “DO NOT TOUCH”, on our relationships, until there isn’t anything you can do without upsetting the other person. Then, the choking starts.

I reflect on the perfect boyfriend and what we have. He lets me be who I am and that makes us stronger. I trust him with the ferocity of a mother lion whose cub has just told her that a predator hurt him.

In this moment, I feel extremely grateful, despite the goosebumps on my arms. For the perfect boyfriend. For the Hibiscus Passion Lemonade Iced Tea. For this uneventful day.


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