Please Don’t Make Eye Contact With Me While I Whisper Every Name I Can Think of Under My Breath to Remember Yours
It’s unbelievably frustrating that no one at this professional meetup has said your name yet. Why do I think it has something to do with nuts? I know we did introductions last week, but I can’t be expected to remember everyone’s names after meeting them one time. I’m just going to whisper every name I can think of under my breath until you look up, at which point I will quickly pretend to be staring off in the distance, having deep thoughts.
I don’t want to judge you based on looks. Your name could be anything. This is 2018, after all. Your name could be Hashtag.
OK, fine. That was a bit of a stretch.
As long we don’t make eye contact, I should be okay. But God help me if you look in my direction and say, “Francis, how was your weekend?”
If you remember my name before I can remember yours, I’m going to get up, leave, and never come back.
Uh oh. John (the account exec; he has a kid and his wife is pregnant with another; why do I remember him and not you?) just noticed me say something under my breath. I’m going to have to explain myself.
“Just remembering ex-lovers,” I say with a chuckle.
I didn’t commit to the chuckle. Everyone is looking at me weird. Alyssa makes a face like she smells something. Ex-lovers? What was I thinking?
It’s Tara! It’s Tara. It’s Theresa. Fuck. It’s Tori. It starts with a T. Or a consonant. It has vowels in it. It’s a name.
I’m imagining myself just asking. Being straightforward and relaxed about all this. Hey, remind me your name one more time. I picture myself smiling confidently so you know I’m going to remember it this time. (Even if it kills me. But I don’t show that.)
Still hypothetical: your response is a frown. You’re surprised I don’t remember your name. Suddenly my smile doesn’t feel authentic. Why am I smiling anyway? But I can’t stop now. That would make it seem even less authentic. My smile begins to break under the pressure. Why haven’t you responded yet? I think. Why are you shaking your head? Why did you just look me up and down like I was a creature from the lagoon? What’s a lagoon?
Great. The waitress heard me and thinks I want a beer.
Eight years sober down the drain, just like that.
No — I don’t have to drink the beer. I see you’re drinking a beer, though. What beer was it you were surprised they had here last week? It was something with notes of citrus and tree bark or something. You said they made a nonalcoholic version of it too, if I was interested in that sort of stuff. That was so freaking cool of you.
I hate myself.
The waitress just set down the beer I supposedly ordered. I can’t look up. I know you’re probably glancing over here wondering why I ordered a beer since last week I told you I was eight years sober. But surely you’re not going to call me out on this; we don’t know each other that well, Vanessa.
I’m just going to say the first names that come to mind:
“Janice. Stevie. Hayley. Williams. Tracy Chapman. Rihanna. Florence and the Machine.”
Again everyone looks at me. I twist my mouth into some horrific imitation of a grin and shrug.
“Music, you know?”
My voice sounds shaky. I think I’m having a panic attack. A war is raging inside of me, I am both sides and the battlefield, everything goes up in smoke and eventually turns black, and when I wake up on the floor, you’re standing over me.
“Francis, are you okay?” you ask. “Francis, it’s me, Sally.”
“Sally,” I say, not fully conscious. “Just like from Peanuts. Nice to meet you, Sally.”