Asparagus and Cappuccino

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.

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  1. Duh! Good thing you got smart (O:

  2. Pat,

    Yeah. Still working on the getting smart thing.

  3. It’s always a work in progress my dear. We do get smarter through experience and with time. In my last relationship, I regret so much. He was very sweet and attentive, and that scared me. I was waiting for him to lose interest, to realize I was not what he wanted. I completely started ignoring his phone calls, cancelled dinner plans, and just fell off the face of the planet The weird thing is I still have his number saved in my phone, and I think about him on different ocassions. I always wonder what if? I am still learning each day.

  4. Kira,

    That’s all we can do – learn each day. And in my case, it would help if I got out of my own way. ;)

  5. Why is it so hard to accept that there may be someone in this world that won’t hurt us in the end?

  6. I agree!! We must definitely get out of our own way. I look back and say what was the roadblock? Oh wait… it was me :). All we can do is learn each day indeed. Thanks for sharing your narrative.

  7. Zaira,

    This is a guess – a very uneducated guess…

    I think that no matter who it is, we will be hurt. It’s a matter of degree. They will be hurt, too. It’s part of the deal.

    I’m hoping for a little less hurt than what I’ve experienced so far.

    I’m also hoping that isn’t too much to ask.

  8. Jesse,

    I love your writing. This is beautiful. I think we all “wonder” about someone we once loved and with whom we shared our lives. I know I do. I wonder why this path is the one I have walked, and I try not to regret it most of all because of my beautiful children but also because I believe even the pain is part of the tapestry perhaps to make me even more grateful for “normal” and simple kindness when I encounter it.

    Thanks for writing. I am so glad I found your blog.

    Best always . . .

  9. Yes, I think you are right. Sometimes, I think this question is down the same path as the ‘happily ever after’ conversation. Is it cynical or reality?

  10. Lynn,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m grateful for the man who taught me how to make a good cappuccino, because he tried to show me my worth. I’m grateful to Mark, because of Jen and Will.

    It all happens for a reason.

    Thanks, Lynn. I’m glad you found this blog, too. ;)

  11. Zaira,

    I can’t answer that.

    I do know that I will no longer sacrifice what is important to me in an effort to be in a relationship.

    I’ve learned that I’m quite fine on my own. I don’t have the stress of asking for what I want, only to have those requests ignored.

    Perhaps I’m idealistic in thinking I ought to be able to get what I want from a partner. But I’d rather keep trying than settle.

  12. The only way we can avoid being hurt by another person is to be a hermit. It’s part of the human condition. At a local high school graduation, the woman giving the main speech told the students to treasure not only their high school mountain tops, but also their valleys. From long experience being in the valley (she called herself a valley girl) she knows how that part of her life helped shape her into who she is today. She’s so right…

  13. Pat,

    All we can do is put ourselves out there and keep trying.

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