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It was July 2016, and my friend Christie was coming into town for Lollapalooza and needed a place to stay. She was bringing a friend along, and I realized I needed more pillows.

One of them would sleep on the couch and the other on the air mattress. Suddenly I realized they would be arriving soon, and not only did I not have enough pillows, but I hadn’t showered yet, so I hurried up and got ready to go to the store.

Doing my hair would take too long so I washed it and figured I would let it dry naturally while I ran my errands, and then flatiron it when I got back. This meant I would have what I call Albert Einstein Hair until I could get home.

Makeup? I’m lightning fast with makeup but just threw on some blush. I could finish that later, too.

image of tree that is shaped as a heart

Photo by Beth A. Grant

Contacts? Naw, I wore my glasses. Too much trouble.

I left my end of the South Loop, driving up Michigan Avenue and then over to the other side of the South Loop, which with all the new development, had turned into a pseudo-suburban shopping mall. I figured TJ Maxx would be my best bet so I drove up Canal Street looking for a parking space, which I promptly found.

As I parked I noticed a gentleman near my car. His skin was a deep chocolate hue, and he dressed in khakis and a bodega  shirt. He was carrying a backpack that I noticed was quite full.

Canal Street in the shopping district is a busy street, and the part north of Roosevelt there is also quite a long block. Feeling too lazy to walk to the corner, I decided to give jaywalking a go.

The man was also trying to cross the street, standing to my right. I looked at him for a moment and noticed how handsome he was.

Each time I tried to cross the street, another car would appear and would have to pull back. This went on for several minutes. Finally the left was clear. I looked to my right , but now there were cars coming from that direction.

As I looked to my right, he caught my eye. Then, in the most beautiful French accent, he said, “Shall I hold your hand?” Then, a slight pause. “Do you think if I hold your hand they will be more likely to stop and let us go across?”

I was not born with a flirting gene but even I could pick up on that.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Might be a good idea.”

“I suppose eventually we will get across … it has to happen sometime,” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

Inside I felt so calm. This was an oddity since when it comes to flirtation, or even speaking with men, I am as rusty as an old nail.

Traffic opened up and we jogged across the street.

That voice … that accent … that feeling of calm inside. I wanted him to talk more.

“What brings you here today?“ he asked.  I told him about my friends coming to town and the need for more pillows.

“You live in the South Loop then?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, not offering more for safety reasons.

For a few moments, we stood there, looking into each others’ eyes. Damn, he was handsome. For some reason, I had forgotten that I had Albert Einstein hair and hadn’t done my makeup. Perhaps to break the silence, I said, “Well, I suppose I will go get my pillows.”

“It was nice to meet you,” he said.

I turned to walk up Canal. As I approached the store entrance, I wondered if he was watching me or had gone on his way. Right before I walked into the store, I couldn’t help myself: I had to turn and look. I had to know. I turned. He was in fact watching me. I smiled and gave a wave. He smiled, too, and then I went and bought my pillows.

When I came out of the store, he was gone.