I shuffle in with rubber soles that slide along because if I don’t make footsteps no one will know I’m here and so I move quickly, quietly, almost pressing myself into the walls in a desperate attempt not to be seen, not to rustle so much as an oxygen molecule as it floats (for lack of a more technical term), welcome among its kin, through the spaces in between those who will judge me, look at me, and perhaps even see me for the stranger I actually am.
My eyes only know one direction but my ears tell me where to go, helping me navigate through the rows of people who are like me but different, who are sharing pleasant chatter, laughs and humanity. I carefully count my paces, steady and soundless.
I am just a few more steps to an empty seat when I drop my phone and the world freezes. Ice spreads through my veins as the phone tumbles down to the ground and my terror rises into my throat; as the traitorous thing crashes down I think nothing has ever been this loud.
My heart thaws and I am sitting before I realize I was at a seat and it isn’t the one I was walking toward but worlds of time has passed since then and I reach down to grab my phone, part of me hoping it has been damaged in retribution. I pause with my head a foot from the ground, where my eyes feel safe enough to scan the floor and I am finally aware of my breathing and my phone is not where it was?
My neck is stiff as I rise from the short solace and because I am staring straight ahead I only barely notice a shiny, black rectangle oscillating in my periphery. The irrational ice is back but it is hesitant, only lurking, only making sure my fingers shiver almost imperceptibly as I reach out to grasp what unfortunately turns out to be a completely unharmed mobile device from the fingers of a stranger. Our fingers just barely brush but I feel every nerve ending involved in the exchange and my hand shoots back, not bothering to glance at the phone but hurriedly stowing it in a vain hope that once it is out of sight the disturbance it caused will be forgotten.
I force my neck to turn and look back at someone who is looking at me and I am looking at a face and I am looking at a nest of dark hair and inquisitive eyes and in them I think I can see my mouth open and I think I utter, “thanks,” and I think I was audible and I know my face is warming and I turn away before I hear a response.
The rest of my time is spent staring straight ahead in my seat where I relive the moment a thousand times over, perhaps hoping on that thousandth time that I could change the events to what would preferably be me never being pushed into this world and yet I can’t stop feeling that unfamiliar hand on my own, infecting me with tiny embers that sizzle insistently at the tips of my fingers.
I linger in my chair as everyone else files out of the room, stomping loudly and talking happily and existing freely amongst one another and I wonder where I belong. Upon exiting I take a straight path down the center of the room, my only trace an imprint in the foam cushioned seat as I leave.