So, this chick, she's cooler than chipped ice. Sexy, intelligent, sweet, beautiful, warm, friendly, considerate, unsuperficial, funny, motivated... and way, way, way too young for me. I met her two years ago, here at the cafe, and at the time she was dating a chap from Peru. She broke up with him about a year ago, but she hasn't done much dating since then- too strange a thing for her, I guess- some people take longer to rebound and regroup. Anyway, I've had a crush on this young lady ever since I met her. Not the kind of crush where it's all-consuming and I get weird- not the high-school kinda thing. Just a crush, as in: "Man. What an incredible girl. sigh It's nice to dream."

So we met and it wasn't like fireworks and crap, but very antiseptic, congenial and friendly. We were acquaintences, friends of friends. Common places to hang out and think about, but never really talking to one another. Definitely two ships passing in the night. But I always enjoyed seeing her come into the cafe, to visit with her friends and watch her be her. She was easily a fun person to watch when she was around. Not someone I would approach, and perish the thought of asking her out! Admiration from afar. That kind of thing.

So word has it here, at the cafe, that I'm a bit of an intellectual-type, a thinker. And it's no secret that I'm a writer and logophile. There has been many-an-evening where I could be spied pouring myself over a crossword puzzle or a Cryptoquote. I absolutely dig word games. They're like crack for me. I can't begin to count how many times someone would walk up to my table and ask for the definition of a word, the etymology of an idiom or help with their own crossword.

And that's how this young lady and I became friends. She had acquired a crossword puzzle book, something to help her bide the time at her nanny job. It's a simple thing, really, and not exactly New York Times caliber- easy brain work that is specifically meant for passing the time when you've got something tedious to endure like watching over someone else's children or riding in a car for an extremely long time.

She came to my table, crossword puzzle in hand, and sat down. "I need help with this and the word on the street (ha. ha.) is that you're the man to ask."

Naturally, I deigned to help her. And, of course, in the midst of this non-adventure, we struck up idle chit-chat. Nothing serious or probing. General, easy to talk about kind of stuff. Work, movies, funny anecdotes. Safe stuff.

And we thoroughly enjoyed it, much to my own surprise. Having admired her from afar for so long, I was dead certain that, upon true interpersonal interaction with her, she would prove to be perfectly mundane and uninteresting, so that I could finally be rid of this strange attraction.

And, dammit, I could not have been more wrong.

She's even better up close than she is from afar. Much better. But I'm no idiot. So I kept my mouth shut, didn't ask her out and certainly didn't even come close to telling her about my long-time attraction. I stayed aloof and friendly and helpful and kind. And she showed up the next night, with another crossword in her hands. "Let's see if lightning strikes twice," she said. We set to it, finished the crossword in about five minutes and availed ourselves upon another one.

It was becoming habit-forming. She became a fan of my hand-rolled cigarettes. She opened up to me a little more. We enjoyed conversation with her friends and laughed quite a bit. I wasn't getting a single thing in the way of a "signal" from her- a total fucking mystery, this one. I couldn't tell if she was attracted to me or just in the process of gaining herself another friend.

So I decided to err on the side of caution, played it safe, and remained silent. Decided that she was just making friends and wasn't interested in dating anyone yet- her assertion, not mine, in answer to someone else's question when I was within earshot. I paid attention to that claim. I was not going to crowd her.

And, besides, I was liking this making-friends process. I don't have many friends, least of all friends of the female persuasion. She was proving to be a pleasant change of pace.

So we continued making friends with one another, keeping things light and carefree. She is, after all, a rather free spirit and Holly-Golightly-like, a Breakfast at Tiffani's kind of girl, y'know? Proper and self-effacing at the same time. And I kinda dug that.

And the attraction wasn't diminishing in the least. If anything, it was growing, and I was nursing the idea of coming clean with her. But I'm terrible with these kinds of things. It's not something to just blurt out, is it? I must tread lightly. I must bide my time and be patient, vigilant and watchful for any kind of sign that she might reciprocate an attraction.

She asked for my phone number without me having to prompt it. She gave me her number with me having to ask. She would oftentimes head straight for my table when she came to the cafe. She opened up even more.

Last week she asked me out to help her study for an exam. We were friends now, so I gladly agreed. Biology class. It was interesting for me and, yes, educational. Some of the stuff we covered I had prior knowledge of, but a lot of it was new information. I'll never look at a mollusk the same way again, methinks.

We segueued our conversation to children, sex, dating, marriage... I didn't direct the conversation that way, it just sorta went there. And it was pleasant.

When it was time for her to leave, I said, "Listen. There's something I've been meaning to tell you for a long time and I haven't been able to figure out a way to say it, so I'm just gonna say it. We met two years ago, and ever since then I've had a crush on you. I find you absolutely attractive and, believe me, I've tried to shake it. I have no expectations and I don't wanna put any pressure on you, but... there it is. I just thought you should know."

And she said, "I suspected as much. Thank you." Which is, I suppose, the proper thing to say. Nothing else, that was all.

Right now she is sitting behind me, talking with another one of our mutual friends. She has sat down at my table tonight for about five minutes to talk about work stuff.

What I'm trying to figure out right now is: am I ignoring her or is she ignoring me? And how can I pick that dead thing up off the floor and act as though it never happened?