An Inconvenient Attachment

Zoe Russell-Bonneau

I watched as he ran a hand over his neck, sighing in exasperation. He shoved a black, maybe leather, journal into his bag, then slung it over his shoulder.
He stepped outside to put a cigarette between his lips, but he didn’t light it. It was weird, but I couldn’t look away. My eyes looked down his slender body to the clunky yellow boots he was wearing. They had a name written across them in big, chunky letters.
ELI.
I smiled a bit. The name fit him perfectly.
“Percy.”
I snap out of my thoughts, whipping my head towards Monica, a coworker.

“Sorry, sorry. I’m working.” I said, then glanced at the camera, seeing a line of cars. I pressed the microphone button on my headset, then looked at the register. “Hi, how can I help you?”
When I turned around after taking a few orders, he was gone. Eli. There wasn’t a trace of him at his table, not even a crumb from the blueberry muffin he had ordered, or a ring on the table from his iced coffee.
That night, I went outside for the first time in awhile, just to sit. The stars glittered above me, and the grass itched below me. It wasn’t long before I started thinking about him again. Eli. Eli. Eli. His name was so simple but I fell in love with those three letters. No, not love. That’s a strong word. I found myself whispering it after a while. It came out so easily. I know, this all sounds crazy, but it’s not the first time I’m noticing him. I’ve noticed him for months. And many of my nights had been spent like this one, just laying somewhere and thinking of him.  

 After about twenty minutes, I went inside. My mother was sitting at the table, drinking a glass of red wine. Everyone says I look just like her, and I hope it’s true. My mother is beautiful. The brightest star in the sky. She has sharp cheekbones, plump lips, and kind eyes. I didn’t spend much time looking at myself, so I couldn’t really tell you if we matched. The only thing I could see was that we had the same shade of blonde hair, but mine was not nearly as long. 

She wrapped an arm around my waist when I was close, laying her head on my stomach.
“How was work, hon?” She asked a soft, almost whispered voice. 

“Fine.”

“Fine?”

“Fine.”

She frowned a bit, then looked up at me. I kissed her cheek.

 “Nothing interesting. It wasn’t bad or good.” Except for Eli.

I didn’t see him for another three weeks. A group of girls from a local college had taken over his table, all of their things spread over his table, spilling crumbs and drinks on his table. I clocked into work one morning, and as I was tying my apron on, I saw him waiting in line. My heart almost leaped out of my chest. It was like there was a magnet pulling me towards him. I walked over, then tapped Monica’s shoulder. 

“I can take it from here, take over the window.” She nodded, then stepped away just as Eli walked up to the register. 

“Hi, what can I get you today?” I asked, my stomach twisted as he made eye contact.

God, those eyes. 

“Just a small caramel frappe, please. Actually, with a blueberry muffin.”

“Name?” 

“Eli.”

I nodded, writing his name on the cup. As I turned to make his drink, I felt his gaze on my back, and my face began to heat up. I finished his drink, then set it on the counter along with the muffin. 

“Small caramel frappe and blueberry muffin for Eli.” 

           As I handed his drink to him, I felt his fingers brush mine. It was so simple, but it sent electricity through me. I smiled calmly at him, then turned to the next customer to distract myself from him. He sat at his table, then slung his bag onto it. 

When my break started, thankfully he was still there. I took my apron off, setting it on a chair in the back. I grabbed my lunch and walked out, sitting at a table near his. I really wish I was smooth enough to have written my name and number on the cup, but stuff like that only happened in books. People like us only happened in books. 

Eli stood up from his table and began picking his things up from the table. He was leaving. I suddenly didn’t care that I wasn’t smooth, or I wasn’t confident, and with a rush of adrenaline, I stood and walked over to his table. He watched me sit down across from him. 

I can’t do this. 

“Oh! Sorry, wrong table.” I stammered, then stood up and returned to my own table. 

As I felt his eyes burning into the back of my skull, I cursed myself out for thinking I’d ever really be able to do that. I glanced at the counter, only to see Monica staring at us, looking confused. My face started burning again, and I redirected my gaze to the sandwich in front of me. Turkey and cheese suddenly wasn’t as appetizing as it was when I made it. 

I shoved the sandwich back into the bag and returned to the backroom, cutting my break early. Monica looked up and down at me once I returned out to the counter, still confused, but grinning. She looked like a shark, like the one from Finding Nemo. 

“Stop. It was embarrassing enough without you adding to it.”

“What were you even trying to do? You turned as red as a tomato as soon as he looked at you.”

I rolled my eyes, then shook my head. I couldn’t wait to go home.

Work didn’t end soon enough that day. After about 5 more painful hours of dealing with Monica, I was finally able to leave. I grabbed my belongings, made myself a drink, then headed outside to my bike. 

I rode to Barnes and Noble, because I had to pick up a book for my mom. She had really been into mystery lately, and relied on me to get new books every now and then. After about an hour of searching, I bought the Sherlock Holmes collection, figuring that would keep her busy for at least a month. I walked around the small store, scanning the books for something that caught my attention. 

I didn’t read much, but I needed something to do when I wasn’t working, or going places for my mom. The next hour seemed to drag as I searched and searched through the endless books on the shelves. Eventually, I found a book called I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. It sounded interesting, so I picked up a copy and walked to the register. 

My mom was sitting on the porch when I got home, the yellow tinted porch light shining on her head, but shadowed her face. I could still see her smiling, though. I put my bike away, then take a seat next to her. Gently, I set the crinkly bag down by her feet then took her books out. She murmured a soft ‘thank you’, kissed my head, and leaned back. She looked at me, but I kept my gaze on the books. She did this a lot, look at me like I was the best kid on earth, which I knew wasn’t true. Eventually, I laid back, resting my head on her shoulder and staring up at the sky. Ever since I was little, my mom and I would do this and spot constellations, but the stars were hardly ever visible because of all the light pollution the city gave off. I missed Goldendale. I sighed when she started playing with my hair, feeling more content than I had in a while.

When I got to bed that night, I couldn’t get his name out of my head.

Eli, Eli, Eli, Eli, Eli, Eli. 

Over and over, on a constant loop. 

How was I so enchanted by him and I hadn’t even said more to him than repeating his order back to him?

Eli shaved his head. It looked good. Made my knees weak, too. God, that’s weird. He sat a few tables away from mine, and I tried my hardest not to stare at him, but it became almost impossible. His dark fingers clutched a pencil as he tapped it repeatedly on his table. It wasn’t annoying, though. Okay, okay, maybe a little, but it was Eli, cute Eli, so it wasn’t that annoying. 

Apparently, he had caught me staring, because he was now walking towards me, and my hands were shaking, my heart was racing, and I probably looked like I was about to have a seizure. He sat across from me, then smiled slightly, just enough to see a sliver of his amazingly white teeth. How the hell do you even achieve teeth that white? 

“Hello.”

His voice was so deep, but smooth, and comforting. I could listen to him talk for hours and hours. Even days, maybe.

“Hi.”

“I’ve seen you before.”

“The register? I work here…”

“Ah, yes. That’s it. Anyway, I’ve noticed you staring.”

I felt my ears get hot, and I looked down at the table. Neither of us said anything in that moment. It felt like an eternity, yet it was probably not more than thirty seconds. 

“I think you’re cute.” He said, the smile coming back. The same sliver of teeth showing again. 

Eli. Eli. Eli. Eli.

Wow. 

“Really? Thanks, uh…thanks.”

“What’s your name?”

“Percy.”

“Percy.” He repeated. Then he said it again, then again. It felt like my heart was being torn out of my chest and being used in a game of Hot Potato. “I’m Eli.”

“I know.” I blurted, and then immediately avoided eye contact, “I-I mean, I know because your name is on your boots, and you always come to the shop. Yeah. Uh, yeah.” 

The smile came back, and he chuckled. 

“You’re real cute.”

I wanted to tell him to stop, but I hadn’t felt this flattered in a long time. 

He left after a few minutes, and I watched him. A new confidence grew in me. A smile crept up on my face when he caught me watching. 

I was happy.

The rest of the day mostly faded away after hanging out with Eli. I couldn’t get his voice out of my head, and I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to. 

Percy, Percy, Percy, Percy, Percy.

I imagined us laying together on the grass and watching the stars. I imagined holding his hand. Eventually, I realized that he might’ve just called me cute because I was cute. People say that a lot, and they don’t have crushes on me. And it’s not like they don’t have crushes on me because I’m gay. I’ve had a few hookups, because what high schooler hasn’t, which really helped me figure everything out, and be sure. For a while, though, I wasn’t so sure if I truly was though. You know, gay. I wish I could tell my mom, but I didn’t want her to be scared for me.

 

Zoe Russell-Bonneau