Paean, or abortive pick-up

Her hair is elaborate. It’s straight, dyed. The roots are ostentatiously brown, the ends, equally ostentatiously platinum. The bangs are precise, a sharp line across her forehead. Her skin, pale, is somehow set off by the contrast between the platinum hair and her blood-red lipstick, meticulously delicately, applied.

“I know her,” I think, from twenty feet away, in a crowded train. And I do think I know her. Not vaguely. Concretely. I think I know who she is, her name, how I know her. She’s a distant acquaintance. We never were close, but we liked each other.

Our eyes meet. “Hi,” I say, over a crowd of people between us, waving. She looks behind her, to see if I mean her.

“Me?” she says, pointing toward herself in a flattered, “little old me” way.

“Yes,” I say. But suddenly, I’m not sure. The woman I know would know me. Instantly.

I say my name. Not the name you know here. My name.

She turns it over in her head, she rolls it over her tongue. She’s trying it out. Does she know it? Really? She’s not sure. She can’t place it.

Now I’m confused. I’m certain. She’s not. My certainty dissolves into disequilibrium. Her confusion washes over me. But now she’s asking me a question. Do I want her to get off with me at the next stop? This, she’s asking with her hands, her eyes, her whole body.

Suddenly, I’m in a scene in “Shame.” But I’m not driven. This isn’t sad. This is pleasant, joyful even. This must be how pick-ups work, I’m thinking.

I’m not picking her up. For a million reasons. I’m just flattered by her interest. I smile at her, turn away, look at the door. It opens, and I walk away, lost in thought.

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