2017

Parallel lines

He was way too skinny – I only glanced up twice, okay, maybe three times, but if you live in a body like mine (or is it my mind?), then one fraction of a second is enough to take notice and make an assessment.

He was way too skinny – I had an unobstructed view of his profile, no bumps or curves anywhere; his straight back parallel to the back of the chair, his thin legs to the legs of the chair, and they all formed perfect ninety degrees with his feet flat on the floor, his thighs on the seat of the chair, his arms on the edge of the table…  the lines and edges seemed to never end. Put it simple, he was all lines, straight and to the point. I dismiss those people straight away – I’m too shallow, one could say, or too judgemental; but to tell you the truth, I feel too round, too bumpy to ever want to be near such straightness. Call it a defence mechanism, if you want to be a neo-Freud, but it made me unbearably insecure to even look at all those lines and edges when my body is the exact opposite. A hazy vision of my roundness sitting opposite his straight lines in a parallel world simmered in my subconscious, to be abruptly trampled down by my self-sabotaging and self-limiting anxieties.

But he sipped his coffee the exact same moment that I did, the movement dragging my eyes up from my book, then he went back to actually working on his laptop. Go figure, some people really do that in cafés.

My second glance lingered on the book and notepad splayed on the table behind his laptop. At first I thought he was waiting for someone to join him, claiming the table for them while he went to order their coffee; but two chapters later still no companion arrived. So he is just spreading out, taking up more space around himself than his lithe body does. Meanwhile, I try to keep my belongings in the smallest area possible; my bag, coffee cup and book touch each other and me, as if they were too shy; I am ever compensating for my generally taking up more space than others.

Another chapter, and my once frothy and steaming cup finally gave up its icy residues. I packed myself up and squeezed, belly tight, legs shuffling, through between the tables, just please let me not knock anything down. One step, two, and I was parallel with all his straight lines for an extended second as my feet faltered next to his table. He was reading Gone Girl, at least that’s the book on his table, with a bookmark almost halfway through. It’s a sign, my subconscious screamed, wanting to bring the parallel world where my insecurities don’t stop me crashing into this one. A fraction of a second was enough and I saw myself addressing him, “Oh, I’m also reading this book, well, I mean it has been on my nightstand since November with only 140 pages in, and I’ve kind of read another 10 books cover to cover since then, but I intend to pick it up again… how far have you got in it so far? Have you seen the movie? Is it better or worse?” But even in that parallel world he was looking at me askance, who is this random round woman talking to me, and even if he were too polite to say it out loud, I could see the thoughts crossing his mind as he looked at me, and no thank you, I don’t need to make a fool of myself… so I continued, put my feet one in front of the other, turned left, a pram temporarily abrupting my longed for speedy escape, but I made it, and I sighed with relief – I escaped the parallel world where I could have had a meaningful interaction with another fellow human being. And I suddenly feel very sorry myself.

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