I used to look at the world romantically. Even if I had a boyfriend, I would day dream about meeting my soul mate randomly at the airport or in a museum, catching eyes from across the room. Strangers that happen by chance. I loved the idea that a stranger was simply a word, a look, or a smile from being something more.
That all ended after I met Oregon Adam. Our story was brief: strangers who met on a plane bound in the same direction, killing a few hours together between stops. It culminated a year later in one fantastic day in which we took the city of Portland by storm. I can’t be here now, in this city, without thinking of him and that drives me crazy. I used to look at Oregon as a beautiful escape. I used to look at Portland as filled with adventure, filled with unexplored possibilities, filled with my future. And now I only see it as a disappointment. The romantic sheen has worn off so many of my perceptions all because one encounter crashed and burned. It is frustrating to think that the fantasy can no longer even exist because it played out badly in real life one time.
The truth is I can’t entertain the possibility anymore and I can’t indulge in the daydream anymore because I’ve seen how it ends.
Their eyes meet over a stack of books. Previous bestsellers that no longer sell, marked down and redtagged into little piles of sale items picked over like carrion bones. She holds them each in turn, clutched in sweaty hands, eyes focusing and unfocusing on the words, mind racing. She avoids his blurry shape formed in peripheral vision and side steps to a different table. He follows. She hears a throat clear and a mumbled phrase and can no longer play the mute.
“Get anything good?” He nodds at the bag by her side.
She looks down and entertains the idea of pulling out her corny stationary filled with baby animals and cupcakes, her current book of chick lit, the pen she picked up at the register, just because. None of it is hers. She bought it but it belongs to someone else, some other character, her stand-in.
“Um, no. Not really.”
She stares at him as he tries to think of something else to say and failing turns away.
Later she will realize it is these failed attempts at conversation that keep her up at night; all the missed connections, not the lights against the glass or the silent phone.