Chapter Two: Hello
Welcome to the latest episode in the saga of my true love story. Catch up with Chapter 1 or if you're already addicted, let's get to it, shall we?
I picked up a black-and-white striped skirt from a boutique in Park Slope, wondering if it would make me appear fashionable. Matty was a tattooed, stylish guy with an Australian accent and I was a clean-cut (tattoo-free) girl from Texas who often wore workout clothes for days at a time. I was nervous that Matty would determine my cool-factor based on what I wore to meet him. The skirt might throw him off course until I figured out my next distraction. I bought it.
My mom never picked up on the fact that I fixed my hair, put on make-up, and pulled on a brand new skirt to go visit my chiropractor’s office, deep in the Hasidic Jewish area of Brooklyn. I didn’t lie about that part, by the way. I did go in for one final adjustment before making the 15-minute agonizing walk to meet Matty at a cafe called Marlow & Sons.
Let me pause for a moment to highlight the potential trainwrecks going through my head during that walk:
“What if I’m going down the street and he’s at the other end of the street and we have to do the weird stare/wave thing at each other for 5 minutes before we finally meet in the middle?”
“What if I can’t understand his accent?”
“What if I don’t talk? I just...stop talking.”
“What if I gag on the coffee? What if he doesn’t like my coffee order? Is he a coffee snob?”
“...what if he hates my skirt?”
Matty was waiting for inside, as all good dates should. Cross the first potential trainwreck off the list. He looked handsome and casual in his cut off shorts and tank top, making me wonder if I did overdress and it freaked him out that I tried too hard. Last potential trainwreck: to be determined.
He stood up to give me a hug then told me that Marlow & Sons was one of his favorite places and he was happy I’d get to experience it with him before I left New York. I began to relax. He was quiet with his words and talked slowly - deliberately. I took every pause the wrong way and immediately tried to fill the silence, thinking he was nervous.
I waited on a stool in the corner of the small cafe and watched as he ordered us two Americanos, wondering what on earth was my life right now? Pushing aside the temptation to get caught up with the fact that I was having coffee with a very attractive man, my mother was maneuvering her way through a gross Brooklyn subway system, and I was only hours away from leaving a city that I loved for good, I accepted the coffee and focused in on where I was. If only for a moment, to just be there.
We sat together for almost an hour, chatting and genuinely enjoying each other’s company. He handed me a postcard from the cafe as we were leaving, saying I should have something to take back with me. I immediately recognized this as a romantic gesture (ding! ding! ding!) and knew that I’d keep that postcard forever because surely it meant he wanted to marry me. I asked him if he’d like to join some friends (and my mom) for brunch, he said yes, and we walked over together.
We continued to talk about food, family, and travel, desperate to know as much as we could in the time that we had. Including one very important thing.
“So, how old are you?” he asked.
I hesitated. I knew I was older than him. I thought he knew that, too.
“How old do you think I am?”
He guessed 25. I laughed nervously.
He was shocked. I was calculating whether or not this was an actual trainwreck.
“How old are you?”
I already knew the answer.
“Are you okay with that?” I was discovering that when time is not on your side will become a bit forthright with words.
“Yeah, I love that actually.”
We arrived together at Five Leaves before my mother, thankfully. By the time she got there a group of us had gathered, so any hint that I was just on on a date and lied to her about it were avoided.
Knowing I wouldn’t have the opportunity for quite some time, I decided to go all in and order lemon ricotta pancakes instead of anything remotely healthy. Oddly enough, I noticed that Matty only ordered a bowl of French fries and I proceeded to engage in some internal hypocrisy. “We can work on that,” I thought.
He brought his camera along to document my last day, and I kept waiting for him to take it out and use it. I thought maybe he was nervous that I’d think it was weird, so I encouraged him. He turned it on and snapped one photo...of my food.
In between conversations with friends and sideways glances, I noticed that he was drawing something on a napkin. My “romantic gesture” alarm went off again, and I figured it was a secret love-letter of proposal that he would hand to me later on when we were saying goodbye. I was only half right. He did hand it to me, but it was a drawing of an eagle he’d admired on our friend’s t-shirt. It was a beautiful drawing and I kept it, because I knew that really it was a secret love-letter.
I started wondering what would happen when brunch ended and he had to go. I realized that I didn’t want him to go. Normally, I would have parted ways to keep the mystery alive, but I had nothing to lose, here, so I asked him what he was doing the rest of the day.
“We could really use some help carrying boxes if...you want…”
He agreed to help. And I started to think that he was feeling time’s choke hold tightening, as well.
Back at my apartment, my mother and I were taping up the final boxes while Matty and my friend, Brandon, carried them downstairs to our rented van. Every second I could find, I was asking him questions.
“Do you have siblings?” as we’re riding along in the van.
“How long have you been in New York?” as I’m handing him a box.
“Do you like blackberries?” as we’re walking down the street.
“What’s your favorite band?” as we’re waiting in line at the post office.
It was a day full of big moments and oddly enough, time seemed easy on us. When we arrived at the post office with all the boxes to ship, it began to freakishly down pour. He got soaked carrying my things inside. We laughed at how unbelievable it was (and I wondered for a brief moment if my flight might be delayed), before the sun came back out and my mom bought him and Brandon ice cream to say thank you.
Before we left my apartment for good, I was having a hard time letting go of my old guitar. It was a special instrument to me - my first real acoustic guitar - and one night it fell from my back as I was climbing up the fire escape to play music on the roof. I broke down when I turned to see it in pieces behind me. When we were packing up the boxes, I had no idea what to do with the broken thing gathering dust in the corner, and I started to feel completely overwhelmed with all that it represented. Matty saw the situation and said something to me that moved me beyond interest and like to trust and understanding.
“Why don’t you just keep a piece of it...and smash the rest?”
It was perfect. It was the only answer.
“Really? Actually smash a guitar?” I began to smile, excited at the thought. It meant saying goodbye to sadness, closing a chapter with oomph, but keeping the part that helped me grow. So really, I never had to say goodbye for good.
I smashed the guitar with vigor and delight as everyone looked on, laughing. Then I took a piece from the neck and sealed it up in the last box.
When we got to the airport I began to look to my mother more than ever. She kept me strong and I didn’t cry. She raved at all the friends I’d made in the city and couldn’t stop talking about how incredible every single person was, but she reminded me of what I was stepping into. It kept me just level enough to stay focused.
I gave Brandon and Matty hugs at the curb, not exactly knowing how to leave things. Matty had stayed with me the entire day and even more, he seemed to enjoy it. My mother must have caught on to something by now. As we were saying goodbye she said, “Brittany, you should make Matty a home-cooked meal some day to show your appreciation.”
I nervously replied, “Yeah, I mean, I should make a meal for everyone!”
After mom and I made it through security, we sat down to a 3-hour delay. I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, and a little confused at what had just happened. Only a place like New York City would send you off in such a way.
“So, mom. Remember when I said I was going to the chiropractor this morning?
“Well, I went. And then after that I met up for coffee with Matty and…”
“I KNEW something was going on. Oh, Brittany, he’s CUTE!”
Needless to say, with so much to talk about, we weren’t that deterred by the delay.
Before I left I’d written notes to all of my close friends, thanking them for everything they’d meant to me during my time there. I had one note leftover and I pulled it out, knowing who it was meant for.
I began writing.
“I owe you a home-cooked meal.”