A Penchant for Cotton

She approaches me during my lunch hour in the park, wearing a white, cotton T-shirt, along with blue shorts and sneakers. She has propped her smooth, right leg on a bench near where I am sitting and is tying her shoe. My eyes fix, unable to move from their stare.

My first crush wore cotton T-shirts, soft and warm, like a woman. I accidentally bumped into her one day while filing into Algebra class. My arm rubbed against her back, feeling her bra clasp through the thin, white fabric. My entire body involuntarily froze for several seconds. I remember feeling as though I had just touched something sacred, maybe defiled it, like Moses at the burning bush or Isaiah in the temple.

I did not tell my friends, because boys don’t talk about their feelings. However, I took every opportunity over the next days, weeks, months–one of those–to study her face, her hair, her body, every detail, from my seat one row behind her and halfway across the room. I still remember long, straight, dark hair drawn up at the side with a barrette, flowing around a thin, fair-skinned face, concave nose, gentle jaw and chin, long neck.

Once, she looked over in my direction, and I quickly turned my attention to the open book lying on my desk.

Finally, the kid beside me asked, “Do you like her?”

I shrugged.

“She’s cute,” he continued. “Hey, you should talk to her.”

I didn’t know if that was such a good idea.

“You should ask if you can walk with her to her next class.”

Walking with her, that was an idea I could get on board with. “Okay,” I simply said.

Before she could escape, I walked up to her and asked.

She chuckled, shook her head, and said, “Uh, no. I can’t. Sorry.”

“That’s okay; I understand,” I said, as pleasantly as I could

I didn’t understand, and I never forgot how rejection felt.

The woman at the bench glances in my direction and smiles. She also has long, dark hair and soft, delicate features. She peers at me from behind hazel eyes, and God has sprinkled fine freckles across her nose. I suddenly find my breath shortening and my gut tightening. I smile and begin breathing deeply, slowly, to calm myself.

These are techniques my shrink taught me. I went to him to help with my depression. I told him about how boring my job has become, the unreasonable demands of my manager, the incompetence of my coworkers, my brother who is always trying to one-up me, my parents who seem to hate me, old friends who never seem to have time for me anymore—

Suddenly, he slapped his hands together with a loud, sharp crack. “What’s the problem?!” he shouted.

Taken aback, I blurted out, “I’m lonely. I want a girlfriend.”

I had never had a close relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Yes, I had felt crushes, but I never acted on them, nor did I want to. Instead, I plunged myself into other areas of my life, which I much preferred, because I simply did not know how to talk to girls.

So he taught me the basics.

“Hi,” I say to the cute brunette.

“Hi,” she says back.

I stand and approach her, now working on her other shoe. The laces must have loosened, or maybe they weren’t tied tightly enough in the first place. She wears no jewelry on the fingers of her left hand. I’ve never seen her here before, probably because I usually take my lunch earlier, but a business meeting kept me today.

“Can I buy you a cup of coffee sometime?” I ask.

She grins without looking up. “I don’t drink coffee.”

I roll my eyes. “Okay, then, some other casual, non-alcoholic beverage, whatever you like, tea, water… Orange juice, everybody likes orange juice.”

She has returned her gaze to my face, and she’s still smiling, but she doesn’t speak.

“In fact,” I continue, “there’s a coffee shop, right down the path here. We could walk there together. How does that sound?”

After what seems like several minutes of me talking non-stop, she finally responds. “I guess that would be okay.”

I introduce myself. “I’m Eric, by the way.”

Her name is Melissa. She works in a nearby office building, in human resources, and she speed-walks in the park every day during part of her lunch hour. She wishes she had someone to walk with, but most of the people in her office don’t like to exercise.

But I do like to exercise, and I like to walk, and I love the fresh air, and I would like to spend more time with her. Near the close of our conversation, I tell her as much. And we agree to meet tomorrow for a walk and a bite.

I feel happy.

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Really sweet, and so well written. Loved it from the start.

Very nice. So glad he found someone he can talk to. Well done.

A very nice story. The sting of rejection can surely affect boys and girls at a young age. Let me tell you about the time…

Anyhow, a nicely told story sir. I’m glad the young man got over his shyness.

Gracie and Alan, thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed the story. -TimK

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