Please Don’t Make Eye Contact With Me While I Whisper Every Name I Can Think of Under My Breath to Remember Yours

please don’t look at me

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.

Emily.”

Johanne.

Damn it.

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.

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.

Elsa.”

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?

Wait.

Wait!

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.

Ugh.

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?

Lagoona. Lagunitas.

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.

Vanessa.

Goddamn it!

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.”