She was speaking. Words were coming out of her mouth. Her lips were moving. Noises were coming up from the back of her throat and toward me.
And I couldn’t hear a word she was saying.
In my peripheral vision, I saw him walk up the sidewalk. Enter the building. And from the corner of my eye, he looked just like you. Hair like yours. Same color. Styled the same way. About the same height. Light blue button up. Thin white stripes.
Just like your favorite shirt.
I felt pain enter my chest, coating my heart. Before I could calm myself, before I could realize what was going on, panic entered me.
I shoved it away. I tried to talk myself out of it. You were five hours away. It wasn’t possible that you were walking into the coffee shop I was sitting in. My eyes left her face and found his. It wasn’t you. Wasn’t you.
I found her eyes again. I tried to focus on her words. I needed to hear what she was saying. It was important. But her words were like another language. I couldn’t understand.
His breath was suddenly near my ear. I was curled up in the passenger seat. He was leaning forward from the seat behind me. I wanted to go back home. I wanted to go to sleep. For this day to be over. I was tired.
“He asked for her number.” he said quietly. The others in the car didn’t hear him. They weren’t even paying attention.
I wanted to punch something. Of course he did. Of course he had asked for her number. I couldn’t believe my luck.
“Do you want to talk?” he asked.
I answered in the affirmative. When the driver of the car dropped him off, I got out with my friend. We found his car and climbed inside. We started to talk. I started to cry. He put his arm around me and drew me in to his side. I wasn’t even surprised that this had happened. Of course the guy I liked had asked for that girls number. Look at her! She was pretty. So much prettier than me. So, I couldn’t be surprised. Unfortunately, despite my lack of surprise, I wasn’t lacking in disappointment. I had an abundance of it.
My friend tried to calm me down, refusing to let me say a single degrading thing about my appearance without arguing with me.
“You really don’t get it, do you? You really don’t see it, do you?” He couldn’t believe that I didn’t see myself the way he did. He was my best friend. So he had to say that, didn’t he?
Even feeling horrible, I felt cared for in his arms. Much too soon, I’d have to say goodbye to him. Just for a while, but for long enough to make me miss him even as I sat with him.
Just for a while? That’s what I had thought at the time.
I shook off the memory. The guy looked too much like you. And she was speaking. Focus. The guy left. Even his car looked like you. I pushed you from my mind.
She was speaking.