How do they do it? Arms extended, they reach out for anyone who will accept their embrace. They show no restraint, they touch my shoulders, my arms, sometimes even my face. What do they expect from me? I don’t understand what they’re seeking. Strangers should never touch beyond a handshake. Mentally, I insist they keep their distance. I watch for them, I am prepared to dodge their overtures, I pretend I don’t see them and when they’re within a few feet, I turn my back.
A woman I barely know tells me her life story. She’s hurting and tears threaten to fall. I scream silently. I can’t help her, I don’t want her to cry. Why is she telling me these things? A man I have met once leans against my car. He looks at me as if he knows me and I realize he already feels some sort of ownership over me. I tell him to leave, I’m tired and I want to go home.
They are so open. They don’t take their time. They move too fast and they scare me. I want them to like me, I want to like them, but they want me to give them everything and I never bring anything with me.
They sparkle and charm, they smile and they rest their hands on each other’s forearms and knees. They are all so beautiful and friendly and good. I wither behind walls, hoping they won’t notice me. I keep my face turned, looking out the window, down at a book. Secretly, I watch them. I study them. I wish that some magic would scream through my brain and turn me into one of them.
I wish one would wrap their arms around me and rather than going rigid and brittle, I would soften and return their strange, easy embrace. Instead, I test them, sound them out, insist they stay outside my personal space until I have determined they are safe. They always reach out before I am ready, they catch me off guard and I offend them by hesitating, by stepping back. I want to apologize, I want to start over.
It’s always too late.