Elephant in the room.
Clio often wondered about the awkwardness that existed between people. In the small art gallery where she was currently pinned against the wall by the elbows of strangers, she watched as patrons weaved in and out of the herd of New Yorkers clutching their wine and plates of cheese, everyone grimacing slightly at the moment of unwelcome contact; a brush of the hand there, a bump of the shoulders here. “You’d think we’re all diseased.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Clio had expressed her thought out loud without realizing. A man, six feet, dark brown hair and blue eyes, and feet that splayed out slightly, was waiting for an answer. She quickly thought of a lie.
“Sorry, I thought you were someone else.”
“Oh. No worries.”
Clio assumed there was no response to be given, and so she resumed her practice of watching the individuals around her.
“Excuse me, I don’t mean to disturb you—but have we met?”
She looked at him hard.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Are you sure? You look very familiar.”
“I’m sorry, I honestly can’t recall.”
The man gave a soft, “hmm” and, “must have been someone else,” then went silent again.
They stood there, her shoulder to his upper forearm, bracing themselves against the crowd with arms folded. Every once in a while someone would step too close in their direction, and they would move back and forth, together and apart, to avoid a collision. Clio readjusted the scarf around her shoulders and absentmindedly felt for the pendant around her neck.
“That’s a great necklace.”
Clio looked up at him. He was looking at her a little too earnestly. She took a second to determine what weight of enthusiasm she should deal her reply.
“Oh. Thank you.”
“It really goes well with your whole vibe here. Very earthy.”
She chuckled a half-hearted, “Yeah, I guess.”
He looked away and she took the opportunity to examine him. Had she met him before? She scanned her memory and came up short. He turned his head quickly, his eyes catching hers just briefly before she whipped her head in the other direction and played with the ends of her hair, trying to play it cool.
“Have you ever been to Union Pool?”
“Yeah, for sure.” It was right up the street from her apartment. She very endearingly referred to it as The Clap Trap.
“Were you there about a month ago?”
“Yeah, actually I was.”
“Big group of girls? Bachelorette or something?”
“Yes . . . “
His lips thinned and pressed together. He expressed a sharp “Mmm hmm” with a nod of his head and uttered, “Excuse me,” parting the crowd and moving away from her. Clio’s eyes shifted back and forth. She could feel a heat rising in her stomach and traveling towards her cheeks, and she couldn’t quite understand why, but as she stood there, making curt glances around her, she hoped that no one had witnessed that scene. To her right, a couple backed into her. She grimaced.
J. Crew tank; Gifted vintage pants; Forever 21 scarf; H&M heels; handmade necklace.