I spent a year hardly thinking about romance at all, but there’s always a perfect character to come along and break me open again, so that cartoon hearts swirl around my head and I remember who I was born to be. Like the election, this story didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped, but I’m reopening the blog to make sure none of the gifts of this experience slip through the cracks.
I work in my local library’s afterschool program. It suits me much better than teaching because the kids and I spend most of our time on art and I never have to make anybody do anything, except be respectful and kind. I can smile all day and tell the kids “I love you” without being accused of being too soft. The library is my happy place and my biggest source of love, pride, and friendship.
About a year ago, a new security guard (I know! Me and security guards.) transferred to our branch and the first time I saw him, I thought “Yep, that’s what a man should look like.” African American, beardy, glasses, locks, sigh, swoon, giggle. One of my goals for 2016 was to flirt daily, and I felt like I’d finally found a worthy recipient. I tend to sing out my coworkers’ names, so I wholeheartedly sang out his name whenever I saw him, chatted when I could, accidentally told him how very much I like the scene from The Avengers where Black Widow breaks out of the chair.
Eventually, he started hanging around. He would spend his breaks coloring with me and the kids and talking about music, helping me build up my ongoing playlist of kid-friendly love/friendship/inspiration songs. Lord help me, he owns vinyl. He kept suggesting songs that were either too emo or so R&B dreamy that I could barely walk after listening. I made fun of him for his makeout music, but it kept finding its way onto my personal playlist, turning my early morning walks into dreamy movie-sequence mushfests.
He was with us in the children’s department whenever he could be, and started telling me apologetically when he was scheduled elsewhere. (I found out later he’d been making the schedule specially to spend time with us! <3 <3 <3) We painted galaxies, flowers, we drew mandalas. We did coloring pages that said things like “Follow Your Heart” and “Don’t Stop Believing.” He’s in college, (This is as good a time as any to tell you he’s twenty-five and I’m forty-two…) so he’d sometimes just bring down his homework, talk to me about what he was working on, and then happily let me distract me from it.
In the way that sometimes happens when you make a truly great friend, I kept telling him way more than I meant to. He became my safe space, someone I could confide in about my election struggles, my feminist rage, my religious questiness, everything that was the most important. I hope that I was doing the same for him.
I’d gone through a good spate of not caring at all what I looked like, but I started to want to look cute when I got to work. I stopped wearing shlubby T-shirts and became more likely to put on lipstick and blowdry my hair. Eventually he told me he wanted his to be the only name I sang out, and that was both very sweet and probably a bad sign.