He spied her as soon as she stepped into the energetic throng of the coffee shop. Her purposeful movement – an unwavering march towards the barista behind the register – drew his eyes.
He looked away.
His eyes looked back.
He crammed his nose into his book, but his attention waned and soon he returned to watching the brown-skinned woman in the sundress.
Others took notice too.
They parted in front of her, a hush falling over the other patrons, and even the folksy background music seemed muted as everyone waited on the inevitable collision, for her jaw was set and her stride determined.
Guilt settled on him. How could he be a part of this visual feeding frenzy? He turned aside, even though it wasn’t her destination that enraptured him, but her journey. Everything about her movement sang a melodic composition of vitality and harmony, from the sway of her hips to the bounce of her curled locks spilling down her neck.
He listened to that song. He heard it when he shut his eyes and – before he knew it – tapped his fingers to the beat.
She confronted her target and spoke in hushed tones. The crowd leaned forward in their seats, eager for the fireworks to explode. He buried his face in his book again, unwilling to join the audience.
A sigh swept the room. He heard it. Felt it, really, and upon looking up saw the keys dangling from her hand and her gesture back to the doors. A lost-and-found submission, nothing more.
See! he wanted to shout at the disappointed patrons-turned-vultures-returned-to-patrons. No sideshow for you! No distractions from your normalcy you can latch on to! I dispel thee, leeches!
So caught up was he in his thundering imaginative sermon that he accidentally made eye contact with her, a half-smile on his lips.
She held his gaze, one hand tucking a rebellious lock behind an ear.
In that second, that frozen instant, that moment that stretched a millennium, he was undone, birthing galaxies while stars exploded. Souls, fragmented things, reassembled into an incomplete whole, not-quite-him, to plead with the universe to be granted fulfillment.
And the universe smiled.
But he, an introvert who accumulated excuses like ravens did shiny things, hesitated. The moment ended, reality returned, and with it awareness. He flushed and stuffed his face back into his book, and that was that.