Back in the day, when I was a wee lass who had just dropped out of college, I spent most of my time in a coffeeshop underneath my favorite bookstore. I would get a cup of tea, pull out a book, and sit there for hours. I actually made a lot of friends at that coffeeshop who are still in my life. But this story is not about one of them – no, this story is about someone who lives on the opposite end of the valuable-friend spectrum.

One day, I was sitting in the coffeeshop with my book. One of the baristas, who I was marginally familiar with, came by my table.

“I got you a cookie,” he said, and smiled.

I smiled back. It was very nice of him to bring me that cookie. It was a tasty cookie. I ate it with my tea, and it was, overall, a very satisfying experience.

After a while, I got up, cleared my dishes, and walked out to my car to drive home. As I was getting into the driver’s side, the barista ran up. He held the door open so I couldn’t close it behind me.

“Hey,” he said, “I’ve got two tickets to a flower show this weekend. Want to come with me?”

“No,” I said. “That sounds kind of boring.”

“Ok,” he said. “How about you just give me your number? We can do something else.”

At that point in my life, I was really bad at saying no. So I gave him my number, and eventually he called, and we set up a date.

I have no memory of how that date went, but it must have been ok, because afterwards we ended up at his house. As soon as we got there, he pulled out a ton of marijuana and we got very, very stoned. We went up to his room, things happened (children’s ears, dear readers, children’s tender ears), and I even slept over.

I should note here that his house was absolutely disgusting. It was a pretty old rowhouse in Petworth, but I remember seeing mice running across the floor pretty frequently. It was filthy. The guy lived with a roommate, the roommate’s dad, and the dad’s gay friend, all of whom would come home late at night extremely drunk and get stoned with us. Anyway. Back to the story.

Over the next few months, this man and I dated, although not particularly seriously. We mostly spent a lot of time stoned in his bed. But it was a good time stoned in his bed. And I got all sorts of free coffee and baked goods in the coffeeshop. All was going well, until he started dropping hints about babies.

In several different situations, he told me that I might be the girl he wanted to marry and that he wanted me to carry his babies. He explained that it was really important to him to “carry on the P____ name.” We had been kind-of dating for 3 weeks or so at this point, and that was – well, that was a little much. So I decided to be done.

One day, we met for lunch. I had rehearsed this whole thing to break up with him, and I delivered it pretty well. I had some intense mental health issues at the time, so I just told him that I was too crazy to be in any sort of relationship with anyone. I told him, verbatim, that if I were his friend, I would tell him to run for the hills, because this girl was nuts.

I mean, I thought that was pretty good. But it just seemed to draw him closer to me. He said “ok,” and smiled, and then paid for our lunch. And then we went across the street and he bought me a huge bouquet of flowers. And then he insisted on walking me back to the coffeeshop, about a mile or two away.

As it happened, on that day, I was also withdrawing from a medication I had been on. From the point that he brought me into the flower shop, I began to feel shaky and dizzy. It only got worse as we walked up the street. My brain was spinning, and I couldn’t figure out what was happening. Didn’t I just break up with this guy? Why is he still walking next to me? Why am I carrying a huge bouquet of flowers?

Eventually, we got to the coffeeshop. I got on the bus to head home. By that point, I was delirious. I just wanted to lie down and stop shaking and get rid of those damn flowers. When I got to my parents’ house, I threw the flowers in the garbage and went to get in bed. Phew. Long day. Over.

But it wasn’t over. Two nights later, he asked me to dinner. I realized that I was going to have to end things more forcefully. We had a supremely awkward dinner, and then, as I was driving him back to his house, I brought it up.

“B_____,” I said, “Listen, I really just don’t want to be in a relationship right now. You’re a good guy, and I’d love to be friends, but I can’t do what we’ve been doing.”

He got extremely, extremely mad. He told me that I was needy and he didn’t even want to be my friend, anyway. So there. Then he started crying and talking about how he didn’t have many people in his life and I was a really important one. And then he yelled at me again. And then we got to his house, and he asked me inside, and I said no.

The best part of this whole thing, dear readers, was that I still had to see him every day at the coffeeshop. But I did still get my free drinks and free cookies. And that is the moral of this story. Put in your time with the barista, and you might get a free croissant.

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