Since Summer is right around the corner, here is a little flashback to a creative nonfiction piece I published a couple years ago.
Mr. Mysterious by Sawyer Stromwall
After a lovely week at the beach with my family, our last day was full of rain and cloudy skies. To say I was a grouch about being stuck inside would be accurate. I was frustrated as Google told me about the sunny weather we would drive home in. To make the best of the situation, I considered going out to dance in the rain. Instead, I recorded videos of myself singing with the echo in the garage. When the evening rolled around, dinner plans were made. I showed up with my wavy hair, bare face, a grey t-shirt, a denim overall dress, and a pair of Teva sandals. My parents and I met up with an old friend who resided on the island. She recommended we meet at a local Mexican eatery.
We arrived a few minutes early, so my parents and I walked in. I noticed a terribly handsome young man behind the counter, as soon as I entered. If I’m honest, not many guys catch my eye nowadays, but I suppose a week at the beach romances you. I found myself dreaming about what it would be like to walk beneath Spanish Moss trees, holding hands with a future lover boy, with tiny pieces of sand bouncing on and off my shoes. I reminded myself that a forever kind of love would eventually come and jumped back into reality by scanning the menu.
He wore a cap on top of his curly, dirty blonde hair, and the sleeves of his white cook’s shirt were rolled up above his elbows allowing his triceps to sneak a tiny peek at the world as he wiped the counter. I slowly walked through the serving line as he assembled my chicken bowl. The girl at the register asked if I wanted chips for my guacamole, and before I could even get a word out of my mouth, he answered “Yes, I’ll tell the kitchen to bring out a fresh bag.” He whisked me away with his polite acknowledgments and proactive care for the guests he served.
After paying, we made our way outside to grab a table. I sat on the right side of the table, assuring my view included the inside of the restaurant. While my company chatted about healthcare and menopause, I was preoccupied with a flirtatious feeling. In between my sips of water and making eye contact with the three, 50-something-year-old people I sat with, I made sneaky glances at the boy behind the counter. I tried thinking of reasons to go back in the restaurant. Fortunately, I drank enough water to excuse myself to the restroom.
As I waited outside the restroom door, he strutted by. He briefly looked over to where I was, but he kept walking. The rest of the evening I debated whether or not to run up to the counter and catch his name. Unfortunately, we headed straight to a gelato joint after dinner, and I couldn’t hold up the group. As we left, I set my gaze on him inside, hoping to get a chance to subtly wave goodbye. I never got it. My next hope was that he would come running out of the restaurant to catch my name, but that was the beach daydream hitting me again.
On our drive home from dinner, I rolled my window down and stuck my arm out to feel the wind. I watched the clouds, which had evolved from their thunderstorm grey into a white blanket with sunset colors projected on them. My mind traveled back to my mystery cook.
“Miss?” A voice yelled from behind. I turn to see who called. The young man from the restaurant ran up, breathing heavily. “Please tell me you live around here.” I smiled and shook my head, signaling a no.
“But I have an idea…” I said, releasing a new hope. “I’m assuming you work the rest of the evening, right?”
“Well, I’m leaving tomorrow morning. But if you’re willing to wake up early, I’m willing to wake up early to watch the sunrise on the beach.”
“Yeah, yeah. Okay. Umm…” he said, eagerly thinking about where to lead the conversation.
“Do you have your phone on you?” I asked gently.
“I do. Here.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket. It had one Hello Kitty sticker on the back. I giggle at the sight of it.
“Very manly sticker you have there.” I said playfully.
“She’s my muse.”
“Ha, I like it. It’s original. Well, here’s my number, and the home address where I’m staying. See you tomorrow?” He smiled and nodded, and we began to walk away when he suddenly stopped and turned.
“Wait! One last thing. How do you like your coffee?”
“Two Splenda and a splash of cream.” I said with a smile.
“Perfect. I’ll shoot you a text later.”
We said our goodbyes and went on our way. He diligently finished his night at work, and I enjoyed the rest of my evening with a fresh skip in my step. Late that night I received a text that read: “I’ll be at your doorstep at 5:45 tomorrow morning. Come outside whenever you’re ready and we’ll to head to the beach. -S”
I woke up the next morning with a million butterflies dancing in my stomach. I threw on a soft pink top, a pair of shorts, put a scrunchie around my wrist, and walked downstairs. I opened the front door and there stood my new favorite human being, with a cup of coffee in one hand and a sunflower in the other. Gradually, his hidden face underneath his yellow hat shifted its gaze from the gravel up to me. He raised his shoulders and smiled. I walked down the front steps to meet him.
This was it. This was the beginning of the love story that always seemed to hide in an unreachable future. As he slid the coffee into my hand, I heard the front door open.
“Can I help you?” My father sternly asked.
“—It’s a shame we don’t live on the island. From what she said, it sounds like her doctor helped her stabilize her hormones. I’m just tired of the hot flashes and hormonal imbalance.”