‘So you like books then?’
I looked up at you and smiled. ‘Yes! Do you?’
You did. We sorted through a shelf of donated books together.
And that’s how it began. We talked, we laughed. I felt a thrill of excitement when Saturday rolled around, because it meant seeing you. Highlight of my week, you were.
I was in love, just a tiny bit. I knew it couldn’t lead anywhere. You were at least twenty years older, from a different generation. You collected vinyl. You had an unspecified mental health problem. You went to college in the evening. I went to the same college in the daytime, so we never met outside of these golden Saturdays at the charity shop. Did you live alone? Did you work during the week? Where were you from? I never asked. It didn’t seem important.
You liked me, I could tell. But you said nothing, so I said nothing. Neither of us knew how to resolve the tension. I tried, and failed, to imagine touching you, kissing you, even speaking the words that would make my feelings clear. I thought about you often. You were in my dreams, night and day.
Until I found your diary. It was a little notebook on the shelf beneath the till, with your name on the front cover. My curiosity was overwhelming. What had you written about me? Confessions of love? Romantic poetry?
I flipped through the pages of notes and observations. I found my name and eagerly read two sentences.
A chill rippled along my nerves. Feeling sick, I put the diary back. To you, I was just a female body. Not a potential lover. Not even a friend. Something to look at, attractive to the eye but not to the heart.
After that, I was cool towards you. Polite, professional, unwelcoming.
You were puzzled, perhaps hurt, trying to work out if you’d offended me. You said nothing about it. I never mentioned the diary. I no longer looked forward to Saturdays.
When I left to start a new job, you turned up at my workplace with a nervous smile. I didn’t know what to say. You pretended to be passing by, but I knew better. You were here to see me. This was our last chance.
One minute of awkward small talk and then you were gone.
I never saw you again.
I hope the twelve years since have been kind to you, kinder than I was.