I wave at my coworker from across the busy car park, and she takes it as an invite and makes a beeline for me. Wait, why is she carrying a motorcycle helmet? Because this girl isn’t who I thought she was. It’s that new girl who, admittedly, bears a slight resemblance to my coworker. But only from twenty yards. My bloody nearsightedness has betrayed me on more than one occasion, which is why I’ve gotten into the habit of not making eye contact with anyone. Generally I try to look like I’m lost in thought–better safe than sorry. For the eccentric artist there are many things to ponder, after all. But this time I was so… sure.
“Oh,” I say. “I thought you were someone else.” My feet carry me forward, compelled by convention, until we are standing between a row of cars and the bicycle rack.
“Your’re scamper, right? Allison.”
Allison the new girl. “I’m scared and I don’t want to talk to new people,” I explain to her.
“Everyone says, ‘you’ve got to meet scamper!’ Ha ha.”
I grimace. “You’re pretty,” I say. “I feel scared and creepy.”
She sets her motorcycle helmet down on the bed of a pickup truck so she can tug her riding gloves off. When she proffers her hand my heart stops beating for a moment, and then doubles its rate in order to catch up. “I don’t like to touch people,” I say.
She takes my hand and pumps it. “I’m going to be working with Rob,” she tells me. Rob is my supervisor. “So we’ll probably end up working together on one of these projects they’ve been talking about.”
“You’re happy and nice, and I don’t like people,” I say.
“You heading out for the day?” she asks.
“I don’t have any more words,” I say.
Just then a man I don’t know squeezes between us to get to the bicycle rack, “Excuse me,” he says. We both back away to give him room to untangle the security chain. Unfortunately, Allison’s helmet is now out of reach, sitting on the back of the pickup, and we’re left facing each other, our horrible conversation now artificially extended.
I look down at the scruffy little bicycle man. “Can I just leave now?” I ask him.
He slides the chain out from between the spokes of the rear tire and drops it into his side bag.
Allison asks, “So will you be around tomorrow?”
“This is awkward,” I say.
At last the bicycle man pulls his bike from the rack and walks it toward the gate, so that Allison can retrieve her helmet. “Okay, well, see you tomorrow, scamper!”
Thus emancipated from social slavery, I slink back to my car, my gaze well below the horizon this time. Does everyone feel a captive to civility, or is it just me? It is a question I may forever ponder, since I’d prefer not to engage anyone with it. I put my car into reverse, and plow into Allison’s motorcycle.
Her rear tire lifts off the ground, and her hands fly from the handlebars. When the bike comes back down it comes down hard, and fairly leans her into the ground. I put my car back into park and jump out, rushing around to the back to find her pulling herself out from beneath the fallen machine. I can hear her muffled swearing before she can lift off the helmet. Which she is doing right now.
Why bother? I think. Does she want to engage me in further conversation? She seems so upset now, which is truly odd, because she didn’t seem upset at all before our vehicles collided. She was happy and nice then, I remember it clearly. So why is she so stiff with rage now, and yelling at me? What has changed?
If people are going to be angry with me then they should be angry with me right away. Why should I have to go through the effort of upsetting them? It seems like a lot of extra work to me, to go around building up hope only to manually scuttle it a moment later. It’s dishonest is what it is.
“What can you expect,” I ask Allison, “when the terms of our relationship are predicated in a lie?”
No wait, it isn’t the new girl after all. I squint across the car park to make sure. Yes, it’s definitely my coworker, which is what I thought. Good thing too, that new girl Allison makes me nervous.