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Crushes on Strangers

The Barista

The Barista
Credit: kina3

ā€œIā€™m in love with the barista,ā€ I message my colleague in San Francisco one slow-moving afternoon.

“Congratulations!” he writes back.

“No, it’s the worst,” I respond. “I can’t concentrate. I’m being weird. It’s awful.”

I sighed when people said his name. I had taken to needlessly applying lip gloss before I got my morning coffee and again when I stopped by for an afternoon break. I’d lean in at the counter trying to overhear his conversations—to extract some salacious and illuminating detail—though what I usually caught was an explanation of why drip coffee is superior, or the nuances of the day’s single-origin brew.

He and I didn’t talk much. But there was something about his smile, the meticulous and even loving way he poured the steamed milk into a glimmering shot of espresso that made me feel like I was taking in extra oxygen.

“You should ask him out,” my colleague types to me.

“Oh no. Nononono.”

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

One thing: Embarrassment. Another: Embarrassment! To make a mad grab for romance with the dashing barista who pours your daily flat white is not merely a violation of the delicate patron-service worker contract, it is also a straight-up cliché. It is thinking the lap dancer really digs you. I used to frequent a coffee shop in Williamsburg where the bearded and sad-eyed barista posted a story from the Onion on the register. It read, “Barista not actually flirting with you.”

(I had a crush on him, too.)

But the main reason I will not ask out the barista is that I never wanted to date him in the first place. I just like the fluttery, gushy feeling I get when I walk into the coffee shop at 9:30 a.m. I like carrying that feeling around with me like a secret burden. It has been a long time since I’ve felt scrambled inside about someone, since I’ve needlessly applied lip gloss. Maybe what I like most about the barista is knowing that feeling is possible, and that I can summon that feeling any time of the day. Also, he pours a mean latte.


TMN Contributing Writer Sarah Hepola is the Life editor at Salon. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Nerve, and on NPR. She lives in Texas with a sweet orange cat who is not fat, he’s just big-boned. If you just read her story about Joseph Gordon-Levitt, she’d like to point that it is fiction. More by Sarah Hepola

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