The world is full of beautiful, pink girls, round and soft in all the right ways, sitting, sipping their coffee (although, strictly speaking, Starbucks' Caramel Macchiato is just delightlfully sweet milk streaked with espresso, for its color), and paying me no mind. One has an unusually straight nose but is pretty in spite of it, her thick, black glasses perched in a painfully hip way atop it. The other is simply stunning, all rings and blonde and generous curves. This one oozes sex as she leans across the table to peer through the glasses and devour the other's soul. Her cheeks are a perfect shade of rosy and she has painted her lips to match. She licks them (lips, not cheeks) thoughtfully between sips and coughs and early fall sniffles; the sudden change in weather got me, too, although I'm thrilled to look forward to frost on the pumpkins.

I spend the better part of an hour looking over the top of my book at her between paragraphs, between wistful thoughts of all the tomorrows I'm likely to face. The chai is sweet and tingly and spicy on my tongue, which has just been treated to an infrequent cigarette. I don't smoke, but it makes the night so beautiful. There is something about the combination of wearing my glasses -- which I don't strictly need, although they clear up fuzzy edges and make night-time neon brilliant like the 4th of July -- and nicotine that makes this clear, cold night even more beautiful than it might otherwise seem. I have become convinced that all the good ones are gay, or taken, or both, and that all the rest aren't interested. I get all manner of looks and smiles and needless favors from men and, of course, I am flattered and intrigued, but I've been down that road -- in thought, though not in practice -- dozens of times, and I know that it's not for me. Men are beautiful and sexy and funny and smart, but what I crave is a soft, smooth girl who smells nice and who will stomp in puddles with me and make snow angels and think it's cute when I burn pancakes while she still drools softly on my pillow.

I know I look all of 16 or 17 years in my hooded sweatshirt and short haircut and smooth face, although my driver's license says otherwise; my posture, too, helps to reinforce the angsty teen persona. I am timid and fidgety and trying to snuggle in the armchair, warm in my courderoy and big, fuzzy socks. I ache for the looks, the smiles, the giggles that she gives so freely to the girl in the fuzzy, blue sweater. She looks -- and never disapprovingly, as some do -- but there is nothing behind it save curiosity. Still, I furrow my brow and try to look interesting -- but why? Nothing could come of it except more bitterness.

I take a final gulp of my now-icy drink, congealed and sickeningly sweet at the bottom, and have a final look at the barrista -- whoever does the hiring at this franchise obviously has the same taste in women as I do (they're all small, and curvy, and more interested in each other than in me) -- and shove Tom Robbins back into my backpack (the same Jansport from 1996, now with an Ozma button, now with the green hilighter fading, maybe still with tiny traces of the marijuana I carried in there for a month or more after finding it on a shelf in the public library, too terrified to smoke it lest it be laced with PCP or worse), and head out the door into the crisp night. I light another cigarette and take in the beauty of neon and traffic and girls walking past trailing hot breath and girly smells.

I am empty, and alone, but I feel that the rush of the infrequent cigarette and the simple beauty of frost and neon and women walking awkward puppies will keep me company until I've gotten over myself and learn to make the first move, and the second, and so on until I am needed and loved and hopeful again.