It was a glint of fire hair against the fog of the coffee shop window that first caught my eye about her. It was every romance movie that anyone had ever seen all wrapped up into one singular moment of space and time. She was typing away on her steel plated Macbook at a wooden table, her cheek resting on a scratchy, red mitten on her hand. Her eyes screamed of frustration as she stared into the screen and a visible sigh escaped the confines of her pink lips, reddened from the heat of her venti cappuccino. I was magnetized and had it not been for the city of LaGrange, the third player in our love story, then everything could have turned out so differently.
It was Christmastime in my hometown of La-Grange, Georgia, the America’s best little town, or so the bumper stickers said. The problem was, she wasn’t a secret anymore. Big retail chains and larger than life players in the hotel and lodging industries had found her and she was quickly undergoing a long overdue transformation. The Great Wolf Lodge was the first to set up shop on the south entrance of town, at exit 13 by Whitesville Road. The mall was also under expansion as well, adding a Dunham’s Sports in the summer, with a new Hobby Lobby quickly approaching in the next calendar year. Restaurants, stores, entertainment, and life were coming to La-Grange by the minute. However, there was something about the quiet town, something that made her keep that hometown feeling, not quite falling into the trap of being swallowed alive by big business.
It was this growth, this expansion that brought me back home to my roots. I had left for Columbus in the fall of 2010, heading out for the university and the appeal of a bigger city with more shopping and restaurants. As much fun as I had, there was still something inside of me that kept calling me home. Even though I visited often, there was something different about being home for good and living my new life here, degree in hand and starting a job. My friends were here, my family, and I had that first sense of post college purpose. Truth be told, there were any number of things that had to line up for La-Grange to give me that special gift that afternoon, out in front of that coffee shop.
The new Courtyard by Marriot downtown on Lafayette Square had just recently opened. It was a beautiful addition to the downtown and the foot traffic had taken off. Down in the lobby was every coffee lover’s dream: a brand new Starbucks. That’s where it happened, that’s where I saw that beautiful girl for the first time, sipping her drink and more than likely cursing at her computer screen. I had seen other beautiful women before but something about her was magnetic, as cheesy as it may sound. There was a force pulling me towards the door handle, in and past the lobby, up to the counter to get my coffee (totally a cover and an excuse to get my foot in the door), and the next thing I knew, I was standing in front of her, my big, dumb mouth agape. Now all I had to do was find that vanished courage and speak.