He fed her the most tender, slightly salted sprigs of asparagus. Each bite tasted like Spring.
He’d shown her how to snap the ends, rather than using a knife. He left the thin shoots in the pan of boiling water just long enough to turn bright green. He drained them and ran cold water over them and placed them on a towel to dry. He said that when they were cooked and chilled, just so, they wouldn’t need butter.
He was right.
He’d also introduced her to the ritualistic steps of making a good cappuccino without the hissing and drips and mess of some new-fangled machine. He slowly warmed whole milk in a saucepan. As the milk warmed he made strong coffee in a French Press. He put a teaspoon-full of sugar in the bottom of a sturdy mug. Just before he poured the dark coffee and hot milk together into the mug, he whisked the steaming milk to a froth.
They sat across from each other, at the tiny two-person kitchen table next to the window, in the cramped little apartment he shared with a roommate, who was – conveniently – never there.
He never made her feel like she was uncultured or inexperienced.
He shared things with her, but mostly, he spent time with her.
He wrote her letters in longhand and scented the envelopes with his cologne. They read books and listened to Van Morrison. They walked and talked of what they’d do once they graduated college.
Occasionally, they’d meet friends at a bar and laugh over beers and throw peanut shells on the floor. Then they’d go back to his house for cappuccino. They slept on his bed. That was all they did on his bed.
He didn’t rush her or pressure her. He made her feel like they had all the time in the world to be together. He made it clear that he enjoyed just being in the same room, breathing the same air, sharing the same food and reading from the same book.
One day, he gave her a package – a small, wrapped box. There was no occasion, no birthday or holiday. He gave her a gift – just because. She untied the yellow bow, tore off the plain white paper and discovered a box containing Miss Dior Perfume. She looked at him and started to ask, “Why? What did I do to deserve this?” Before she could ask, he said, “In my family, when you like a woman, you buy her perfume. This scent reminds me of you.”
For a few weeks, she’d put on the expensive smelling perfume and they’d go for walks and read more books and drink more cappuccinos. She started to feel like an impostor when wearing the scent. She couldn’t get over feeling like she didn’t deserve something so fine – so fancy. She became annoyed with him when he showed her how to make an omelet. She lost patience when he put Al Jarreau or Michael Franks on the turntable. She grew frustrated waiting for him to show his real self – the side of him that – she believed – would grow bored with her and lose interest.
She convinced herself that she didn’t deserve to be treated so well. She was sure that he’d find out she wasn’t worth the perfume, the long talks into the night, the letters, or the intimate meals. She stopped returning his calls. She stopped going to his apartment.
She went back to drinking black coffee, without milk and sugar.
It’s almost 30 years later. She wonders if he ever found a woman who let him lavish her with attention, treat her special, buy her perfume and write her letters.
She’s just now realizing that she was worth that kind of attention all along.