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.