Jelissa was tired; physically, emotionally, financially spent. During the past year, between covid and her non-existent love life, things just seemed to not be working out in her favor and the constant loneliness she felt, was getting to her. She wasn’t the most beautiful woman, didn’t even come close, but she felt like she was pretty enough to attract a man. She wasn’t stupid either, in fact, she was well educated and even had her own small business at twenty-six years old that she had started three years prior. So, what was wrong with her? Why was no one interested? Well at least, no one decent?
She hit something and jolted out of her daze and back into her present reality where she soon realized that her shopping cart had hit into the back of someone. Rambling off apologies, her eyes caught those of her victim’s who even in the mask he wore, seemed to be one of the most handsome men she had ever had the pleasure of meeting in person. His bluish-green eyes seemed intrigued at the fact that she was staring at him, and he didn’t look away from her either. He was tall with a smooth bald head, bearded and intimidatingly beautiful. Yes, he was not just handsome, he was beautiful.
Embarrassment washed over her face as she caught herself and she looked down. “I am so sorry! I didn’t mean to hit you,” she said pulling away from the scene, “so, so sorry.” Oh gosh, oh gosh! Let me leave from ‘bout here. She quickly turned to leave but, in her panic, to get away, she ended up hitting a stack of luncheon meat and tuna cans, knocking them off their shelf. Could this get any worse? Good thing I’m wearing a mask. Still, she wanted to hide her face and run away.
She bent over and started picking up the cans when she felt someone beside her. “At least these aren’t breakable”, it was Mr. Handsome, “Are you okay? Seem to be in a hurry.” Yup, she was embarrassed.
“Yeah, that’s what it was. Thanks for the help!” she said as she placed the last can back onto the shelf.
“No problem at all.” He sounded like he was smiling.
As they got to their feet, she thanked him again and they went their separate ways.
A week had passed since the encounter in the supermarket, but Jelissa couldn’t stop thinking about the handsome stranger she had literally bumped into. Though the thoughts of him brought back a heat of embarrassment, she could not get his half-face out of her memory. She imagined how his nose and lips were formed under his black three-ply mask. Would they alter the appearance she admired in a bad way? Or would they make her daydream even more? Was her life so dull that all she could do was think about a man she would probably never see again? Maybe so, but she preferred to hold on to her fantasies: fantasies wouldn’t break her heart.
Her phone ran and knocked her out of her thoughts, “hello?”
“Don’t tell me you forget Jay!” her friend, Shanice, said impatiently.
She had in fact forgotten that they had made plans with two other friends.
“You a bad liar. Hurry up and get ready man. You know time limited with curfew. I gonna be there in twenty minutes. TWENTY MINUTES JELISSA!” with that Shanice hung up.
It had been such a long time since they spent time together. Every time they planned; something came up. First, their New Year’s outing had to be cancelled because of the rising number of covid cases, then the entire island was locked down for a couple of months and as soon as restrictions were lightened, a volcano on another island decided to erupt and indirectly affect Barbados. She really did not want to disappoint her friends, and she needed this time out with them, so she got up and quickly got ready.
She stood and glanced into her full-length mirror; her finely braided hair hung above her waist, she wore a spaghetti strapped knee length white dress with sandal-strapped low heels and her makeup was light but lovely. She had to admit that she looked good. Simple but nice.
True enough to her word, Shanice showed up in exactly twenty minutes; one thing about Shanice, she was always on time.
They were the first of their party to reach the restaurant, but the others soon arrived. After they ordered and were catching up, Jelissa looked up and was met by familiar eyes. Being seated at the table opposite was Mr. Handsome and two other men. He couldn’t possibly remember her but she could not forget those eyes. He held eye contact and as if he was hesitating, then he pulled his mask back up and walked over to where she was sitting.
“How are you?” her friends all stopped talking turned and shifted their attention to her and the stranger with questioning eyes.
“I’m good.” What was she supposed to say? Why wasn’t her brain working?
“This may sound strange, but I was hoping to run into you again. Would it be okay if I got your number?”
Jelissa stared blankly at him. He wanted her number? Her number? Huh?
She quickly snapped out of her thoughts, “Sure!” Do I sound too excited?
“I’m Justin by the way. It’s nice to officially meet you…” he trailed off as though asking her a question.
She quickly understood, “Jelissa. My name’s Jelissa. It’s nice to meet you too.”
She went into her purse and found a small notepad and a pen and scribbled her number and handed it to him.
“Thanks!” he said before asking, “call you later?”
When he had gotten back to his table and took his mask off, she was awestruck. How could one man be so beautiful?
She got home and got herself cleaned up and ready for bed. She really hoped that he would call but she tried hard not think about it so that she wouldn’t be disappointed just in case he didn’t. Not even a minute later, her phone rang. Her heart started racing and her hands shook as she answered the call.
“This is she.” She tried her best to sound as proper as ever and laughed at herself because she realized that she was trying too hard. She relaxed as they continued to talk. At first glance, he didn’t seem like he would be funny but as their conversation flowed, he joked and made her laugh the entire night.
She yawned and glanced at her phone to see the time. Oh my! It’s after two!
“I’m sorry for keeping you so long.” He said upon hearing her yawns.
“It’s okay. It has been nice talking to you.”
“Would it be weird if we just stayed on the phone until we fall asleep?”
She thought about it for a moment and then said, “I’m weird so I’m up to it.” This made him laugh.
She placed her phone on speaker and rested it on her bedside table; in no time at all, they were both asleep.
Jelissa awoke the next morning feeling refreshed and light despite her late night. The call had ended on its own after four hours. She had never felt as comfortable talking to anyone else as she had with him. She always felt like she had to reserve a part of her every time she got close to someone but for some reason, he made her feel less vulnerable. Strange.
Weeks passed and every night he would call, they would talk for hours, and then they would fall asleep over the phone. The only problem was, they hadn’t gone on a physical date yet. They still had to be extremely careful with everything going on, but they wanted to meet up badly.
Soon enough, opportunity arose, and they were finally able to go out on a first date. Although Jelissa had spent every night for the past five weeks on the phone with Justin, she was extremely nervous about seeing him again. Her stomach felt queasy as soon as she heard the knock on her door. Who would’ve thought that a man could look so good in a mask? She thought after she opened the door.
He was the perfect gentleman; he opened the car door for her and after they were on their way and started talking, all her earlier worries faded. They laughed the entire night. She hadn’t felt so carefree in a long time. The past year had made her somewhat depressed and feeling useless but now she felt inspired and happy.
She couldn’t wait to see where this would take her. It could end up being short, and things might fall apart but she refused to allow her over-thinking to get in the way of her happiness. She would live in the present and enjoy what they have now. Covid had taught her that: to appreciate every good thing you have now because you never know when it could all be taken away.
Love in a Pandemic: Justin’s Plight
Something hit me behind my legs as I was studying which Bajan seasoning, I would pick off the shelf. I turned around, half-annoyed, wanting to know who was invading my personal space in a time where a deadly virus was rapidly spreading.
I was about to share my displeasure, but silence and awe immediately struck me when I saw her. She was wearing a long-sleeved navy-blue shirt paired with long jeans as though she was using them as a barrier between her skin and the outside world. It took her a hot minute to realize that she had hit me with her cart, and when she did, she kept rambling off apologies. I smiled to myself. It was quite funny seeing how flustered she got at such a little thing. Yes, I admit, I was a bit annoyed at first but there was something about her that softened me. Her aura was beautiful, and I was instantly attracted.
At thirty-one years old, I had taken over managerial responsibilities of my family’s business but when covid hit our shores, the business took a sudden turn downwards. Little to no money was coming in and the clients we did manage to hold on to, were one by one cancelling orders; covid had truly hit us hard. What was once a successful and thriving family business soon became a burden after lockdowns, curfew restrictions and ash-fall from a volcano eruption on another island. That last one really surprised me. Previous mismanagement had put us in a bad financial situation that could have been remedied if we didn’t have to use the bulk of our resources to stay afloat, due to the pandemic. Now, I had to step in to ensure my father’s hard work wouldn’t be in vain. I can’t afford to be distracted, even by a pretty face. I watched as she left; this wasn’t the time to be looking for a woman.
This past week I kept wondering how she was despite myself; hoping to see her again just so I could talk with her, but although Barbados is small, I doubt that, with an ongoing pandemic, I’ll have an opportunity to see the same stranger twice. She was so absent-minded that I’m sure she would not have any recognition of me, especially since half of my face was covered.
Shoot! I was running late. I had a meeting with my brother and one of his lawyer friends to discuss other investments that just might help us out of our financial situation so that we could possibly pour money back into our family’s business. This time has proved that we need to be strategic, and as much as the extra work is killing me, I’m hoping that it will be well worth it.
I sat in my car and waited for the others to pull up. That’s when I saw her. Or someone who looks an awful lot like her. Where were these guys? I checked my watch; I was still early although I initially thought that I was going to be late. I didn’t want to walk in there behind her like some creepy person, so stayed put until my brother and Charles got there. Honestly, I don’t really know what I want but I’m going to make sure that I at least leave here with her number tonight.
Months have passed since meeting Jelissa. We’ve talked every night, even with busy schedules, since that first night; falling asleep until the phone cuts out. This has been the most drama free, unproblematic time I’ve ever had with a woman. Sure, we’ve had minor disagreements, but each had been resolved right there and then without dragging out or turning into something dirty. Still, I have not been able to get past the ‘dating’ phase. I don’t want to put a title to what we have although I have a feeling that she might want more. Actually, she has already mentioned it and I dodged it like I’ve been dodging this virus. There’s still so much going on with the business and I don’t want to give her a false sense of security. What if I ask her to be my girlfriend and then she becomes different; someone I don’t know?
“Hey babe, how has your day been?”
“Slow. Nothing is really going on. What’s going on with you?” she answered not really in the chirpy way I’ve become accustomed to.
“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong.”
“Justin just leave it.”
“If that’s what you want.”
“So, we’re just not going to talk the whole time we’re on the phone?”
“I was actually thinking about having an early night. Can we talk tomorrow?”
What does she mean by “talk tomorrow”?
“Jelissa, what’s going on? You don’t want to stay with me tonight?” We’ve never spent a night off the phone since we started talking, even when we were extremely tired or busy.
“Yeah. I’m sorry. Good night, Justin.”
“Okay. If this is what you want.” With that she hung up.
I couldn’t sleep. I kept asking myself what I did wrong. Did I do something wrong?
I picked my phone up and saw that it was after two in the morning. I had to say something.
Jelissa, whatever I did, I’m sorry. I don’t ever want to hurt you so whatever it is please tell me so that at least I know and that way I can fix it but if you keep it to yourself how can I?
As if waiting for me, Jelissa appeared online and started typing…
There’s a lot on my mind right now. I’m sorry if I took my frustrations out on you but the truth is that you are a big part of the reason why I’m upset. When I met you, I didn’t expect that there’d be anything between us. I liked you and you were funny, and I was attracted to you, still, that’s all I thought it would be. Then, we talked every day, started going out and eventually we were spending all our free time together. I was finally with someone who saw me for me and every time I look at you, I felt complete. Now, well, now, this is the sad part; I’ve grown to love you. Not as a friend, I’m in love with you. I can’t hide it anymore. I’ve kept it to myself because it seems like you don’t want us to go further than whatever this is, and I didn’t want you to think that I was pushing you into a corner. All I wanted was to know that we are going in the same direction, that eventually we could be more, but eight months in and you still can’t commit to being my boyfriend. I want more than this and I honestly wanted it with you, but I have decided to choose me. As wonderful as you are, I don’t want to wait until the day you meet someone else and decide that she’s who you really want. I’m not gonna lie, I want you in my life, but it may be better if we just go our separate ways. I’ll always be thankful for the time we did have because you are amazing, but I can see that it isn’t me that you want and although it’s hard to accept that, I’ll get over it.
Take care of yourself for me.
I couldn’t believe what I just read. She loves me? She wanted to end things? No! I care too much about her to let her go. Love? I don’t think that’s what I’ve been feeling for her, but I do care a whole lot. I called. She didn’t answer. I called again. Still no answer. I tried twice more, still no answer. I’ll give her the space she needs tonight and check back on her in the morning. She might settle down by then.
Two weeks; it has been two weeks since I last heard from Jelissa. My focus has not been to my work at all. I’ve been in relationships that ended before but I’ve never felt this torn. I’ve tried my best not to think about her but I can’t help myself. Was I wrong for not giving her a chance? A lot of what she said makes sense but it’s hard to give her all of me without knowing if things will change afterwards. There’s so much about her that I miss; her impact in my life has become so big in such a short space of time. No! I won’t let her go, I need to make things right.
I knock at her door half expecting no answer but there she stood, eyes wide and questioning without saying a word.
“Why are you here?” she asked, not being rude, just surprised.
“I’ve missed you.” I simply said.
“Justin, you know that this is not how cutting communication off works.” Was that a hint of humor?
“I know. Can I come in? I really want to talk with you.”
Without a word she stepped aside and pointed towards her living room. After I sat down on the couch, she sat in the loveseat, forming distance.
“Jelissa, I know you’re hurting. I felt it in the message you wrote. I’m sorry I did this to you; please give me a chance to explain,” she nodded so I continued, “I care about you so much, I honestly don’t know yet if it’s love but I do believe that you deserve more than just emotions. I want everything I have with you to be real. I’ve thought about you every minute for the last two weeks and truthfully, I don’t want to be stupid and end up losing you.
You are the funniest, silliest, sweetest, most beautiful woman I’ve ever known and you are so much more; you are strong and resilient and thoughtful and kind; simply put you are amazing. I thought that if I took things further with us that eventually things would change but I dawned on me that every change isn’t bad and we’re human, we aren’t meant to stay the same, we have to grow to become better every day. Losing you made me see that I want you in my life and although I don’t know what is gonna happen tomorrow, next week or even next year, I still want to give us the chance that we deserve.”
She held her head down and buckled her lips, something she did every time she became nervous. I got up and sat next to her and lifted her chin to see tears running down her face.
“Justin, I don’t want you to just say those things because you think I need to hear them. I don’t want to force anything on you.”
“You aren’t forcing me to do anything. I want to be in your life. I’m not so good at expressing how I feel but I’ll try to let you in more. I don’t want to let you down, ever.”
She hugged me, her tears soaking my shirt, “I didn’t want to stop seeing you Justin, I really didn’t.”
“Neither did I. I’m sorry for putting you in that position.” I said as I rubbed her back.
“So, you’re gonna be my girlfriend?” I said playfully poking her.
“Only if you’re going to be my boyfriend.” she poked back.
“Of course. Wouldn’t have it any other way.” I held her gaze for a moment, hoping she would see how serious I really am about this and then I kissed her. These were the simple things that made life feel worthwhile.
Business has been slowly growing despite the state of the economy. It hasn’t been the best but we’re learning how to coexist with something that seems not to be going anywhere anytime soon. The investments we looked into are proving to be promising so we’re glad we tried our luck.
It almost feels like things are getting normal again or maybe that’s the happiness talking. Jelissa has also been seeing a steady increase in sales after actively promoting her business. It would sound cliché to say that we make a good team but I’ve been sappy lately so, “we make a good team”.
It’s funny how I thought that being with her would distract me from my work or end up being a disaster when in fact she has become one of the biggest motivational factors in my life. At this point I don’t have to question whether I love her or not, I know I do. I didn’t fall, I found myself; she gifted me with something I never thought I needed, and now I plan on showing her just how much she means to me every chance I get.