Dear Romeo

were two words that filled me with pride when I read them in my leaving card. I had just graduated from university and was sad to be leaving my part-time job in a supermarket cafe, after a tenure of three years. At the start of shifts I used to hop into the kitchen, skip into an apron, and jump on the till. This cafe was no idyllic haven for shoppers to sip elderflower cordial. It was dynamic and industrial sized. On busy weekend shifts I'd run the kitchen that was flooded with orders. Or I'd glide around pouring latte art, asking customers if they had everything they needed. Evening shifts could be quieter; I'd save money on meals by eating lasange, panini's or whatever else was otherwise destined for the bright red bin bags.

I wasn't always so bold. It takes time for me to become confident around people. At the start, I was timid and nervous, scared of what people would think of me. Every time I meet someone new, they don't know I'm good at football and it makes me feel inadequate. I'm not a forthcoming person; I tend to struggle creating an identity, preferring others to build it for me. Luckily, when others failed, time succeeded, and after a year I had even made friends. On the surface I'm mousy, underneath I'm cocky. There's no hidden depths but self-loathing is present throughout.

What I needed was a greeting on a leaving card that burst with affirmation. The sentiment within was that I was a charmer, that girls wanted me. Everyone shipped this quiet full-time girl and I, who blushed whenever my name was mentioned. A more outgoing girl ended up in my bed after a night out. Another declared her love for me after I pushed her up against a wall outside a bar. I had a girlfriend the entire time but I was greedy, and tragically desperate to feel wanted. For all the pride I felt with the words Dear Romeo, I felt more self-loathing, as I came home and hid the card away.

I got reminded of this now, as I prepare to leave my current job. On finding out I was leaving, a colleague said to me “who's going to flirt with the Spanish account manager now?”, referring my genial companionships with my desk neighbour and her predecessor (both of whom have boyfriends). On hearing the comment, I felt an instinctive primal pride but it faded very quickly into a sadness which, in retrospect, I think was a manifestation of loneliness. Whilst the flirting is reciprocated and actually quite cute, there's no exertion of vulnerability. I don't feel wanted, and that's what I think I need. From someone, anyone.