What I Really Mean

He’s walking. No, I’m walking. He’s smiling. He’s getting closer. I can’t feel my feet. Am I standing up? No. Maybe I should stand up. No. I’m not standing because I’m walking. No, I was right the first time. He’s walking. I’m sitting. Maybe I should just look down at my drink.

“Hi,” he says.

“Hi,” I say, but I mean, “I don’t know how to talk to strangers because they only taught me not to.”

“How’s your day so far?” he asks.

“Fine,” I say but I mean is, “My earlobes itch when you get close. When my hands rest on the table, I can’t feel the wood because there is so much sweat pouring out of my palms I feel like I’m drowning, which is easy to do because I don’t know how to swim.”

“Did you order this martini,” he asks.

“No,” I say but what I mean is, “I didn’t, but if I say yes, will you stay and talk to me and pretend that we are lovers in the night, while everyone is grinding on the dance floor, we can just enjoy the intimacy of my awkwardness and talk about my dog or the weather or my incredible ability to drown in my palms?”

“Oh okay. Must be her.”

I watch him walk away and I cry inside. Deep, deep inside where I bury my feelings and my desires, but not my hatred for myself, which I wear on my sleeve in case I need to cling to something big enough to keep me afloat when my palms are too nervous.

My date clears his throat.

“Oh.” I turn my head.

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