Please don’t be another unrequited love story

Message in a Medium-shaped bottle

5 min readMay 7, 2024
Digital illustration of a girl daydreaming
Illustration by author

Please don’t be another unrequited love story. I have enough of those. Written by my own hand; every time I backed down, every time I didn’t say how I felt and pretended I was happy being friends instead. I lost every shot I didn’t take, but somehow convinced myself that heartbreak by my own hand wasn’t really heartbreak.

I have enough of those written by shy boys who thought I was too different and feared what others would say about us, about them, if we were to go out. They gave me compliments like secrets. They suggested more study sessions than we could ever need, exquisite excuses to exist in the same space. They sought me out at parties, watched me dance with my friends. They told me I looked great out there. One hand lingering on my arm as if to keep me by their side, and then a friendly push with a blush, half-hidden in the dark. A half-hearted: “go, go have fun”. They walked me home after every happy hour, only to leave me on the doorstep with a hasty hug.

I have enough of those from guys that didn’t know what they were looking for. My texts were like random trinkets on a scavenger hunt: sometimes kept in a pocket, sometimes tossed aside, seldom properly replied. They reacted to my stories with bright red hearts, they sent selfies from their coffee runs and proposed plans that never materialized. They flirted with my feelings, then pretended not to see them. “I didn’t know you liked me like that.”

By my hand and theirs, I’ve written lots of unrequited love stories, but it’s been quiet for a while now. Pens down, notebook set aside. Until now.

I first see him at the cafe next door, an unofficial WeWork of sorts. He’s sitting in my spot, the corner seat in the bar against the window. Brow slightly knitted, gaze zeroing in on the screen. Focused is a good look on him.

Between the hours of nine and four, there’s a lot of us, remote workers, looking for background noise. We recognize each other as regulars with a casual nod but seldom strike up conversations. The next time I see him, I beat him to my spot. He walks in half an hour later and smiles at me before finding a seat by the door. I start going more often. We only exchange smiles, but what a glorious smile he has.

He looks at me when he thinks I’m not looking. I confess I do the same, but if our eyes happen to meet, we both look away. There’s something so adolescent about it; somebody remind me how adults do this.

Then one day, a random Tuesday, nine AM; the cafe is really busy, seemingly at capacity. I think I’ll have to take my coffee to go and then I see him. Without giving myself a second to think, I ask him if he minds sharing the table. My heart is racing so fast I’m pretty sure he can hear it.

Now he sits across from me, frustration written in his frown as he struggles with some work project he can’t figure out. Look up, look up, look up, a command repeated loudly if only in my mind. I want him to look up and find comfort in my smile. The background noise of the cafe rises and falls around us. I try to focus on my own work, but my mind keeps drifting to the imaginary story of us.

Around three PM, the cafe gets really quiet. I hear the silence and it makes me panic. We’ve been sitting at the same table for hours and have yet to exchange a single word beyond my nervous question and his casual answer.

I try to think of something to say, but there are no words left in the universe. He looks up and I feel myself blush, before my eyes drop back to my screen. I’ve never stared at my computer this hard, if it exploded it wouldn’t be a surprise.

I miss him the next couple of times I go. Kick myself for not talking to him the last time, then think it might not have made a difference, he could have a girlfriend, he could be uninterested, maybe it’s better this way. And then I miss him some more. We don’t go or go at different times, I’m leaving when he arrives and vice versa. I’m sitting by the window when he walks by, he gives a little wave, I smile. I almost give up.

Then one day, a random Wednesday afternoon, during the quiet hours: a chance conversation. An introduction. An exchange of Instagrams. A few more shared tables. An increasingly familiar smile.

He’s quiet in a way I never manage, and I find myself filling those silences with stories. A writer again, always.

He comments on my stupid Instagram story. I reply expecting two ticks and a lazy emoji but he texts back. I type fast if clumsy, I don’t want to give myself time to overthink it. He types slow and thoughtful, no psycho punctuation, but no typos either.

He texts me for my birthday, he asks about my plans. I invite him to drinks with my friends and he actually shows up. The rain caught him on the way, there’s droplets on his glasses and soaking half his shirt. “I’d hug you but I’m soaked” he says. I hug him anyway, “I’m so happy you came.” He sits next to me, makes small talk with my friends. When the drinks come, he raises his and says “cheers to the birthday girl”. He smiles at me, dips his head in my direction and whispers happy birthday.

He doesn’t stay till the end. He says he has a tennis class the next day. I pout. He laughs and says “another time”. I tell him I’ll hold him to that. He turns to leave and I suddenly think if he leaves like this, it will be another story like all the other stories. An almost, a maybe.

“How about Friday?” I blurt out.

For a second I think he hasn’t heard me. Then he turns around.




Slow runner, fast walker. I have dreamed in different languages. I read a lot. Yes, my curls are real.