The poetry of smudged kohl



Dear stranger who can’t decide what to order,

Your face was evocative of an autumn, wild orange, unapologetic in its eloquence. It hosted your life story, in large, lucid letters. If only I could read the language, I’d have savored the poetry of raindrops in your smudged kohl, memorized the tombstones of kisses on your cheeks and listened to the childhood tales that constellations of freckles told. Instead, I just mumbled, “Their muffins are the best.”

When you looked in my unsure eyes with yours, the hue of coffee beans and dark chocolate, i knew the memory of that moment would keep me warm for many winters to come. You asked me nothing; the questions, formless and wordless, washed up on your shores, helpless against the tides of a thought long forgotten. I never offered any answers; you fetched them, effortlessly picking out the lies from the uncomfortable confessions of my silence.

We sat at the same table, never faking a courtesy. What did we talk about? I can’t quite recall. I was lost in the way your eyes lit up every few minutes, the way you held a smirk when you thought you had me figured, the way you trembled when you realized i had dug out more truths than you had dared reveal in years, the way your gaze swayed every time you knew i was reading you, the way it returned with a knowing smile. I could feel it on me while i stirred whirlpools in my coffee, and when my thoughts wandered out the cafe window to fetch memories from lost cities.

Our thoughts jammed like a college rock band, at first trying out covers, and then some original tunes magically fell in place. You believed in zodiacs; I said there couldn’t be just 12 kinds of people on earth. We agreed to disagree, and I reluctantly told you mine, half fearing I’d be a sign you don’t like. Who knew we’d have the same sun sign and I’d almost instantly regret the rant against astrology.

When we parted, there were no promises of another morning of caffeinated conversation, only a hope that you would reach out some day to the boy who steals your thoughts. I told you i’d look forward to it. I do.

– The boy who drops his change

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