You were, in a word, beautiful.
In statistics, you were my type. Your Greek Isles, green iris rippled like the lake at the sailor’s camp that summer when we’d cross paths. We’d exchange nods – and the odd spoon if you need a clean one.
You, the gorgeous tall sailor. Me, the awkward teenage kitchen helper.
For two months, I tried to catch your eye. Your intense, slightly older than me, eye. But what is age, really. Sixteen to thirty-one?
My heart healed surprisingly fast after my boyfriend, Joshua, dumped me. For the umpteenth time. You became a wonderful escape. I’d bound from bed at six o’clock for work. For the off chance I’d see you in the mess hall. Or your hand reach for the dessert tray.
Then, we spoke. Well, sort of. You handed me a spoon. When I took it, you gave me a toe tingling smile and the sun flickered off your irises.
“All alone, I see?”
Oh, God. You had a British accent.
“I’m just refilling the condoms… condiments! Condiments! You have ketchup now.”
“Good. I like it on fries,” you said. “How do you like it?”
“Um … plain … just plain.”
“You eat ketchup plain?”
“Okay.” I crammed salt and pepper packets into containers. Forget about the sugar. I’ll come back after dark. I’ll break-in over the weekend. This isn’t how I imagined our first conversation.
“Your name’s Tessa, right”
“How’d you know?”
“My roommate told me.”
You asked about me? I was so touched. Looking back though, you were thirty-one, and at sixteen – I was jail bait. But this was a soap opera unfolding. You had a legit Shane Donovan-Days of Our Lives accent.
Then I spilled one of the sugar dispensers.
“Oops,” you said, approaching the table.
“It fine,” I said. “I’ll just … ” and I swept the sugar onto the floor. “I need to vacuum later. I should go.”
Luka. Like the Suzanne Vega song. Your parents named you after a future top 40 hit.
You laughed. “Yes, I know.”
“I’m going to go.” I headed for the stairs. And I almost fell. In my defence, they were steep. And you were staring. And beautiful.
“Bye.” I raced down the stairs and to the mess hall. You spoke to me. You had a name. You were … someone I could never have in reality, but I wanted to stay in my dream world. Where I imagined you’d come into the mess hall when I was alone. And say:
“Tessa, I’ve been thinking of you since you replenished my condiments.”
“So have I, Luka.”
And you’d say other lovelies and then you’d swoop me into your arms and carry me onto a sailboat. And we’d sail around the world.
In reality, the mess hall was never empty.
As the sun set on my summer and grade eleven called, I saw you one last time.
On a path.
“Are you leaving?” you asked.
“Yeah, I have the weekend off.”
“You’re lucky. Goodbye, Tessa.”
I should’be read deeper into your words. When I returned, you were gone. You literally shipped off. I was crushed. My Shane Donovan was gone. I’d never meet you again in the captain’s room. Or mess hall or path. Or after dark if I broke-in to the captain’s room.
For real. Because the sailor’s camp closed the next summer, and it never reopened.
But, Luka? You really were beautiful.
*Names changed for privacy