Everyone stares. Some criticize, some are just bored. It’s the ones whose eyes linger a second too long that I’m interested in. I spare them some of my time, and they give me a story in return. I try to read them, to analyze the bubble they’re in at that precise moment. At the grocery store, I see a girl with a man pushing a kid in a stroller. It’s the girl who’s looking at me. I see regret in her eyes, a decision that was taken lightly. I see longing, coated with lost hope. Perhaps she sees something in me that she wanted. I wonder what she would give up now, to have what she still wants. She breaks eye contact as we walk past each other.
I sit at Starbucks, across from a man and a woman. She’s hurt. Her arms are crossed and her body is hunched over, defensively. The man is on his phone. The light shining from the screen illuminates the hate in his eyes. His body is tense from all the anger bottled up inside of him. She has so much she wants to say, but she’s scared of him. I can sense the defeat emanating from her. Things won’t ever be the same. I look around and I see a cute girl staring at me. She’s starting to feel self-conscious, thinking that I’m just like every other guy. I want to smile, to walk over and tell her that I think she’s cute. I want to rebuild her hope. But, I can’t.
I overhear this conversation. He’s a friend of a friend. She tells them that he was blonde, then shows them a picture. One girl loves it, the other rolls her eyes and mumbles something about her preference for natural hair. I marvel at the competition over some guy they just met. He clearly prefers the eye roller, but there’s something about her that puts him off. She closes herself off, too arrogant for my taste. At a restaurant, I notice a guy who keeps looking around. He’s desperate for attention. I want to tell him that people are there for the food, not to look at him. Although, I’m enjoying his foolishness a bit too much. This creature in the corner catches my attention. It has four limbs, it’s completely black, and it creates this constant clicking sound. Oh, my mistake. It’s a group of friends, out having dinner. One of them looks up at me, then tugs on her friend’s sleeve and points at me. They both sit there, staring. I open my mouth to show them my chewed food.
She’s out with friends, enjoying their evening. I don’t mind the noise. It all blends together, making it easier to filter out. She’s quiet though, just nodding her head at appropriate intervals. I’ve been standing behind them, waiting in line to pay for my frozen yogurt. She hasn’t said a word, not a single thread of gossip. I clench my jaw and a lightbulb goes off in my head. She must be mute, I think to myself. That’s when she turns around, bumping into me. She smiles at me, and says “sorry about that.” I’ve never heard such sincerity before. I smile back, mentally correcting my observation. “It’s okay”, I say, “you aren’t from around here.”