Smile

by Mitchell Dyer

We exchange awkward half-smiles in the hallway every day. What is that? Nobody actually says anything, so it’s not even a greeting. We uncomfortably acknowledge each other’s existence and then walk in opposite directions. It’s the start and stopping point of our social interaction.

This wouldn’t be such a bad situation if I weren’t in love with her. Not, you know, In Love. I don’t want to raise her children. I’m talking about the same sort of affection that makes pre-teen girls draw gigantic, throbbing hearts around “Mrs. What’sHisName” inside their math notebooks.

It’s not a sex thing, either. Said attraction is not about me wanting to shutter the blinds, tear her shirt off, and make a mess of my office. Or her office. An office.

Alright, maybe it’s a little bit of a sex thing.

Step one, obviously, would require me to say actual words, out loud, in her general vicinity. It’s not like I’m a coward. I’m not shy. I’m an adult. I talk to human beings for a living. But I can’t start a conversation without deliberate purpose. Hooking up hardly qualifies as a solid stepping stone. Hanging out after hours doesn’t work either. Hi, we’ve worked together for a year and you don’t know who I am. Let’s suddenly mingle!

This time, as I fire up my best fake grin, she stops dead in front of me. Her face glows as she straightens her posture and lifts her chin. Her eyebrows rise, her eyes widen, and the slightly smirking edges of her ripe, pink lips spread into a legitimate smile.  She’s got a look in her eye that says, “Hi, we’ve worked together for a year and you don’t know who I am. Let’s suddenly mingle!”

She finds a purpose.

She says, “Hey, Malcolm.”

I don’t know what to do. I’m frozen in place for what feels like the most awkward hour of anyone’s life. She’s waiting for me to follow suit.

I follow tradition.

My bent face and I keep walking. The door couldn’t have closed behind me any faster.

Damn it.

What was her name again?

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