Ethan hated my eyes.
It was weird. He’d go on about how green was the most hideous color, except for the rich tone of the summer. He’d say, “Nature is undoubtedly beautiful. The grass, the trees—they’re the perfect shade. Around then everything’s vibrant and bright. But, green is just not a good color. You can’t do anything with it. Mint may be the only nice shade. You’d say emerald is a great shade, but eh. I mean I know your eyes are like emeralds but they’re just boring. Too common and bland like brown eyes. Although, some can work with eyes like that. I guess everything’s just not for everyone.”
Ethan had a habit of ranting like that. He’d have his fit of word vomit and, somehow, it would spin into bashing me. Making me feel insecure was his favorite. Like that time I spent the night with him at his father’s home in Deephaven. Ethan held me tight in his arms and made me stare into his eyes only for him to say, “You should consider getting contacts.”
I never wore glasses. I always had perfect vision. When Ethan told me that, I was baffled. “Why would I get contacts?” I asked him.
“Green eyes are just not you.” That was all he said.
I don’t know why I didn’t get up and leave and delete his number. Maybe because I was far from my home in Maple Grove. Or maybe Ethan and I were well into a year of our relationship by then. I thought it’d be stupid to dump him because he hated my eyes. It hurt, yes, but didn’t make sense. Whenever he’d rant about my eyes, I took it.
Still, I was taken back when a perfect stranger in a Starbucks line on campus took the time out of his day to say, “I love your eyes.”
I yanked out my headphones. “What?”
Through the shredded guitar solo and Jani Lane’s heartfelt vocals in Sometimes She Cries, it sounded cheesy even if it genuinely wasn’t a pickup line.
The stranger repeated himself. “I think your eyes are nice.”
“Thanks...” I said in an okay-that-was-weird voice.
“Sorry,” he started to clear himself, “I didn’t mean to be so forward like that.”
I couldn’t stop the smart alec in me. It wasn’t surprising when I blurted, “Yeah, it was a bit cheeky.”
Something twinkled in his eyes. Their blue color felt gravitating and warm. His brow arched as if I said something nervy. He was amused. A chuckle escaped my own lips and rang in my ear, nearly frightening me a little. The stranger didn’t mind at all. That’s when I noticed him. Like, really noticed.
Golden locks dangled around his face in deep waves. His complexion showed off his youth in its peachy shade. When he smiled, his eyes squinted as if they were doing all the talking. Something about him was different. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Suddenly, the music on my phone was on pause and I let him give me an earful laced with dad jokes that made my day. In minutes, I learned that he was from the Golden State. He loved the beaches in Orange County and the sunny blue skies he woke up to almost every day. Jokingly, he admitted to living the typical Cali-boy life. However, he grew up with a dad who used to be a sportsman in hockey and was from Minnesota. Eventually, while most of the boys in school preferred surfing or skating, he and his old man drove to a local rank and practiced until it was time to go home. “When I turned 17,” the stranger continued, “I knew for sure that I wanted to get into hockey. Like professionally. When it was time to pick colleges, I thought about getting into my dad’s roots. I thought Minnesota might be a cool start.”
Before we knew it, he was next in line. He politely excused himself to order a tall blonde latte with coconut milk and french vanilla syrup. A unique taste, I’ll say. After him, I ordered a cappuccino with almond milk and hazelnut syrup. As we stepped aside to let the rest of the line get their orders in, he said to me, “I forgot to ask for your name.”
I smiled up at him. “Will you tell me yours?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” he asked.
So, I told him. “My name’s Kyle.”
“Nice to meet you, Kyle. I’m Liam.”
“Nice to meet you, Liam.”
“We should hang out sometime,” he said.
It never went unnoticed that I have a thing for guys who are bold and a bit blunt. It’s like eating licorice. Depending on the guy, however, the superficial sweetness might quickly go south. With Liam, he didn’t have that taste. He was like a pack of jolly ranchers: bright, bold, sweet, and had a variety about him. I didn’t mind saying, “We should. If you mean that, want to exchange numbers?”
The grin that twinkled his perfect pink lips gave me a new feeling. I felt like a schoolboy hooked on puppy love like a pack of smarties. I left Starbucks with my favorite winter drink and a new number saved in my phone.