When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be the hider.
Not the seeker. When the game got played I’d find the most obscure places. The tiniest places. The places no one ever wanted to even dare lurk around so I could never be found.
I would stay silent and curled in a ball for long after the game was over. Long after everyone else had been found and I knew it was safe to come out. There was something terrifying— downright breath-losing— about being found. I can’t explain it. Not beyond these terribly written sentences, I can’t tell you why I’ve never known how to be found.
It’s been 15 months and 13 months.
15 months and 13 months.
15 months since I bit down hard on my bottom lip, sitting by the window of a Starbucks by Yale University, the day after a break-up with a man I tried to fall in love with. That’s when I heard him. God, I mean. I heard him whisper, “Go.”
13 months since I actually listened to that whisper, packed up my Toyota with the tinted windows of a drug dealer, and moved my existence to Atlanta, Georgia.
15 months since I winced and whimpered, “Please just me let stay in a town that keeps me comfortable.” Comfort is delicious and contagious.
13 months since I broke my comfort zone. My comfort zone exploded into a million bedazzled pieces on the floor of a new house with too small of a bathroom and an endearing neighbor with no teeth named Little Bit who would acquire bicycles and new clothes and all sorts of things in the time I lived across the street from him.
That’s what Atlanta is to me: the shattering of my comfort zone.
It started at a coffee shop with white walls called Taproom. The shop opened its doors for the first time one week before I arrived in Atlanta. I took it as a sign that God had made the coffee shop for me. I was meant to sit inside those four walls and read too many books and meet too many strangers and draw too many doodles in the corners of my notebooks.
Mornings were flushed with pour-overs and people-watching.
It quickly became my neighborhood coffee shop where the baristas would pray for you when you needed a nudge and they’d brew you a second cup on the house when they noticed your head had been down for several hours. I liked all of them instantly because they were real. I mean, you can’t really train someone to ask “how are you, really?” and teach them to linger around long enough to actually hear your honest answer— that’s just a trait of good people, not baristas.
The people at Taproom Coffee make the meanest London Fog you will ever consume. It’s not listed on the menu but order it anyway. Turns out, happiness is in white cups and foamy drinks inspired by rainy days in England.
I’ll never forget sitting at Taproom one late night talking with the owner. I always felt like I could not escape him, as strange as that sounds. But there are just some people who make you feel like you can’t actually hide from— they see you. As much as you don’t want to be seen, they see you.
This was the city I could not escape from because everyone was adamant to see the cards of mine I never placed down on the table.
He looked at me and then turned away. He turned back.
“I wonder about you,” he said quietly. “I wonder who picks you up from the airport. That’s all.”
They always ask “if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” He could have never asked that question and it still would have somehow made a sound.
I am the girl who doesn’t know how to mumble, “I need you.”
“I need you so bad.”
Secretly, I am hoping I can return to this page in a few months from now and change that last sentence to past tense.
That’s just me: I don’t know how to need people. So when you buy my coffee or give me ballads to knock the air out of my lungs and you make me take bites to balance out the liquor, I cave. I cave into myself and I reach for the suitcase and the running shoes.
I’d rather dazzle you with a false picture than make you endure the parts of me that still cry out with inconsistency and resentment.
It’s been 13 months and I am still here somehow. And I call Taproom Coffee my place and I sometimes cry when I drive home on backroads at night because I am no longer traveling home— every part of this city adopted me. And people are beginning to know my real middle name. And I feel seen and I am thankful for whoever created that word and wedged it into a dictionary for a hopeful girl like me. My god, I’ve wanted to be seen & uncovered & told I am okay for so long. It was the simplest thing in the world and I could have had it years ago.
I guess that’s growing up, right? Realizing you might only have one shot to get it right so you better keep this good thing going, even when it scares you half to death.
People always told me love was quick and instant.
The kind you have after blinking twice, too slowly. And that was how I always felt about New York City— like I loved her before she ever let me in.
My walls are higher and my stakes are more and love isn’t quick for me anymore. Unless it’s cheap coffee or a Christmas song, love isn’t quick for me anymore. It’s slow and quiet and a process I want to rest my whole body inside of because I think could be safe here.
Cities have never made me feel safe. Coffee shops have never made me feel wanted. People have never made me feel like I didn’t want to hide anymore.
Until now. Until this.
Welcome to the fight it takes to keep me here.