On the third morning of the conference I ducked into Whole Foods for breakfast and there she was again, the tall young barista with the two-toned hair, horn rimmed glasses and that smile that could eat a dictionary all by itself. I pitched her my latte order before circling the buffet, grinning in a way beyond friendly that made me feel old and creepy, like my dad flirting with waitresses a third his age even before he could blame it on senility.
I chose a breakfast burrito, already wrapped. The barista wasn’t busy, so the latte came out quickly and she said, “See you tomorrow?” To which I answered, “Sure,” like we were on for a whole month of tomorrows even though in a day and a half I was heading home.
I thought I might be able to catch the 8:40, but the check-out line was slow and the 8:40 was pulling away from the bus stop just as I came out the door. So much for hurrying. I invented excuses for returning to the coffee counter while sauntering across the parking lot.
The sun felt good. Cherry trees blasted pink blossoms all along the street. Six sleek black crows walked steady lines through the beauty bark by the bus stop, like a staggered row of gardeners hoeing in seeds.
They eyed me as I approached. I said, “Hello.” The closest crow tilted its head at the shiny silver in my hand.
I said, “You all look busy.” The crow stepped towards me, curious, hesitant to commit.
Her partner gave her a look half-way between get back to work and maybe I’ll come with you. I opened the foil wrapper and took a bite, careful not to spill. The crow hopped onto the fence.
I tossed her a piece of egg and that sealed the deal. She tipped her head back and gulped it whole.
At the conference I’d been learning tidbits, trying to make connections. I was looking for an agent, for a back and forth that would last longer than a few emails ending in, “We’re sorry, but we didn’t fall in love.” I wanted someone to fall in love, with me.
One by one the other crows found promising strips of bark and flew off towards a bank of trees where I realized they were building nests. But this one stayed, watching me eat. I tossed her another tidbit, and wondered if the trade-off was worth it. It was early yet. She had time.
I had time, too. I could have gone back inside. Could have bought another latte. Could have tried for a back and forth that might have survived going home. But I didn’t.
Two more bites and the shiny foil was empty. The crow watched me wad it into a ball, toss it into the trash. She edged closer, sideways, along the thin rail of fence. I wanted to talk with her. I showed her my empty hands.
She squatted like she might be settling on something worth keeping, then leapt into the sky.
Kim Ross’s work has appeared in Vitamin ZZZ and the 2019 Whatcom Writes anthology. She was a 2019 AWP Writer-to-Writer Mentee, and is currently working on her second novel.