emotion#28: Relief

(part 2 of 3)

Photo by the author.

Dinner over, everyone half smiles, checks their phones, puts their coats on, and rushes to the exit, avoiding long goodbyes.

On her way out she bumps into Joe.

They haven’t exchanged a single word during dinner — and during their more or less five years working at the same office they had maybe reached a total of fifteen words, most of which being either “good” or “morning”.

She tries to avoid eye contact, but their eyes happen to meet in the same exact awkward moment. She doesn’t know what to do, so she smiles. Joe smiles back.

She is stuck in the moment, trying to figure out what to do with her hands in order to look busy and distract them both from the weight of that silence.

But the moment doesn’t last, because Joe breaks it. His words break the ice and the water and the rock and the very center of the Earth as he says:

“Look, I don’t like this. I don’t like that people don’t say what they mean. I don’t like that we feel so much and show so little, and I don’t like that miscommunication is the vast majority of my days. I don’t like that I am not myself most of the times, and I didn’t like that we couldn’t mention the clear events happening between us at the table. So here I am, opening up: I like you. I like you, Sarah. Our paths have barely crossed before today, but I am choosing to pursue a connection with you, right here and right now. I want to hold your presence with my eyes and with my breath. I want to embrace this moment as it is, instead of what it could be, or what all those people expect it to be. I couldn’t hold this anymore, because this behavior has been weighing on me my whole life, and I need to put the load down. I am taking this opportunity to say hello, and one thing you can know for sure: I am myself as I say it. I am my real, solid, present self.”