I still remember the first time I worked up the courage to talk to Sarah. It was a Sunday afternoon, in a small teashop that had just opened across the street from our apartment complex. I had seen her through the shop window, perched on a large cushion, poring through a fat book and clutching a cup of coffee in her right hand. Normally, I would have just walked by, but for some reason, I felt compelled to go in and say hi.
As I ventured through the door, a pungent wave of jasmine and magnolias crashed over me and forced me to sneeze several times. As I wiped the tears from my eyes, I gawked at the gaudy interior. It was a frilly, feminine sort of place, with a steamy soap opera playing on a flatscreen hanging on the wall, beaded curtains and lacy cushions propped up against ornately carved window seats. A waitress who had materialized out of nowhere caught me staring at them, and informed me that they were “genuine walnut, imported from Argentina,” before she thrust a menu in my face and stared at me expectantly.
“I’ll, uh, I’ll order in a few minutes,” I managed, not knowing what else to say.
“No problem! Just holler when you’re ready. My name’s Minnie.”
“Yeah, you know, like the mouse,” she quipped, unfazed by my blank gaze.
“So, yeah, just ring the gong and I’ll come right out.”
I sighed with relief as Minnie finally sauntered away. She was cute, but I was on a mission. I had no time to flirt with cheeky, pink-haired waitresses. My eyes were on one pseudo-bohemian, strawberry blonde artist with rosy cheeks, tortoiseshell glasses, and a secret passion for biology.
As I approached the corner of the shop, Sarah finally registered my presence and leaped off the cushion to greet me with a flustered smile. “John! What are you doing here?” she exclaimed.
What was I supposed to say? That I had been secretly stalking her on several social networking sites and knew that she had come here every Sunday afternoon for the past two months? That I had typed her name into our university’s online directory just to find her phone number so I could store it in my Blackberry, even though I had no intention of calling it? That I had stolen my best friend’s phone to find said number when the directory search ended in failure? That I had eavesdropped on her best friend’s conversation in astronomy class instead of taking notes so I would know what to say to her?
“I saw you in the window, thought I’d drop in and say hi.”
“Oh, how sweet! But this is such a girly place! Can’t you just feel the estrogen clogging up the air? I’m impressed that you’ve even lasted five minutes in here,” she said, giggling.
“Well, I have two little sisters, so I’ve had my fair share of tea parties.”
I could feel her attention fading and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to think of what I usually did when my little sister Junie started getting antsy because she didn’t want to go to sleep — a funny story? A snack? Butterfly kisses?
Granted, this situation was slightly different, considering I was trying to figure out how to convince my best friend’s younger sister to go on a date with me, but I figured that the mind of an eight-year-old couldn’t be that different from that of a twenty-year-old, especially one that liked to watch Disney movies, drink strawberry bubble tea, and snuggle with her teddy bear, according to her Facebook interests.
I knew from experience that Junie listened to me best under the influence of lots of sugar, so I decided to go in for the kill. Who knew, if this went well, maybe I would even get two dates from this.
“So, Sarah, I was wondering — ”
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“Wanna split an Oolong Blueberry Pomengranate White Tea Magnificence?”
“I hear they’re good!”
“But you hate tea.”
“Yeah, well, I thought I’d do some experimenting, you know, try some new things.”
Sarah sighed. “John, I know you want something, you always ramble like an idiot when you want to ask a favor from somebody. Why don’t you just spit it out?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Look, John. You’re my brother’s best friend. Even though you probably never noticed me when you were hanging out at our house and playing video games, I know you. I’ve watched you for the past twelve years, ever since the first time you walked through our door and asked my mom if she had orange Jell-O because your mom wouldn’t let you have any. I know how you scream into pillows when your favorite football team loses. I know that you still don’t know how to tie your shoelaces. I know that secretly, you love playing dress-up with Junie, even though you pretend to hate it every time she ties a ribbon into your hair. And I know you avoid tea with a passion. So please don’t try to lie to me.”
Amazing. All I really knew about Sarah was that she was Rob’s younger sister, that she was hot and that she loved the scene in The Lion King where Rafiki bonks Simba in the head and starts rambling in Swahili. But she had gone above and beyond any of my expectations. She had been stalking me in real life for over a decade. I couldn’t believe it.
“That’s all you have to say? Wow?”
“Actually, I do have a question for you.”
“Sarah, will you date me?”
She laughed. “God, I thought you’d never ask.”