Ever drive a Valentine’s Day present to Oklahoma?

Young Love in a Small Town

Freshly-showered, he sits casually askew in a chair drug into the open storefront. Half-in, half-out, the location is perfect for his purpose. It’s shaded, has an open view of traffic crossing by six feet away in either direction, and – most importantly – a sly glance over the left shoulder in the direction of the pastry case reveals the main attraction.

It’s not the dozen varied precursors to diabetes on display behind the spotless glass, nor is he interested in the shiny chrome of the imported coffee maker which grinds local beans with a quite “whirrr”. No, candied carbs and caffeine are not what makes his visit sweet nor quickens the heartbeat. He is here for Her, it would seem.

Dark hair in a pony, her every word backed by a giggle, she sings to whatever comes blaring out of the largest battery-powered Bluetooth speaker I’ve ever seen. That’s right. She is the reason his word white Nike’s appear to be carefully wiped clean – she’s the reason he’s wearing what I grew up calling “Sunday jeans”.

My suspicions, if there remained any doubt, are confirmed as the off-key singalong of the transitioning boy-to-man voice sings a dull and oft-cracking accompaniment to a version of John Legend’s “All Of Me” leaking plaintively from his phone. Only a lovesick dude would dare, I think, as I take a bit of what I thought was a powdered donut, nearly choking on what must be a glaze made entirely of SweetTarts ground into a white paste. My hand grasps for a swig of coffee to wash it down, and out of the corner of my eye I spy him checking his smile for foreign objects in the reflection of the screen as her back is turned to vacuum behind the cake display.

I’m hardly ready to leave – it was a forty-five minute walk to arrive, and another coffee would be grand. But there are at least a baker’s dozen more joints to grab one in the tiny Andean mountain village of Villamoreno, and he didn’t put on that fashionable graphic tee on a Monday morning just to be sidelined by the inconvenience of a customer.

I rise to pay, fishing a few thousand pesos from my pocket, and stroll further into town. Young love is alive and well in a small-town bakery, and I intend to let nature take it’s course.


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