Opportunities Unknown, Lost

I was sitting in the Barnes and Noble cafe with a pile of books on the table in front of me, looking at the books I picked out and deciding which ones interest me the most. My mom was sitting beside me on the hard bench going through her purse and straightening things as she’s known to do. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a man about my age picking his way through the clutter of tables and patrons. He glances at me furtively with interest, but he doesn’t walk over. Instead, he sits down at a table near mine, glancing restlessly through a material. I smiled to myself before going back to my books, wondering if he wanted to come and talk to me.

A few minutes later, I look up to seem him coming towards me in a determined gate. I studied him, wondering what was on his mind. I soon found out.

“Do you mind if I take that Girl With the Dragon Tattoo copy from you?” he asked. “That’s the only copy they have left and I was hoping to have my own copy.”

“Sure,” I exclaimed, handing it to him. I knew there were other copies over in the fiction area, but I didn’t want to cause a scene. And anyway, I’d already read the book, why do I need to buy a copy of it? We looked at each other for a little while more. He looked like he wanted to say more to me, but didn’t quite know how to say it. I smiled and did a half laugh, not sure what else to do or say.

I was about to turn myself back to what I was doing when he pointed at the book I was holding, a copy of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. “That’s a good book,” he said, “you should read it.”

I smiled and thanked him and he smiled back. I watched him take a few steps away, looking at me all the while, as if reluctant to leave me alone. He finally left, his black pea coat hugging his frame. He was cute, I thought. I wish I talked to him more.

This little incident happened a year ago and I never saw him again since. I still think about him though and wonder if he was interested me, if I looked intelligent, someone he could talk to and discuss books and academia. I wonder what would’ve happened if he was brave enough to sit down and talk to me, if anything would’ve come of it. Perhaps he would’ve if my mom hadn’t been there sitting with me. But I still look for him every time I go into that particular store, expecting him to pop up and ask me for the copy of the book I’m holding, to start up a conversation with me that never began the first time. I wonder if he still thinks of me, or if he’s found someone not so ethereal and much more solid in reality to date. In spite of it all, I still think of him, and wonder about the opportunities that were lost or never known to begin with.

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