Every day, I confront three or four awkward stretches of time. Fifteen minutes here, thirty there – times I’m between point A and point B. Because reasons, it’s best if I leave point A and not arrive at point B and so, I camp out. Often, in a Starbucks. Today, in a salad place. I pay a couple of bucks for a Pellegrino (actually, a “Hal’s New York Seltzer Water”) and I sit, renting a chair and WiFi. I write. Or work. Or meditate. Or I just watch.

Today, a young woman sits across from me. We share an empty lunch place at eleven o’clock. No other customers intrude on us. She stares at me. She smiles. She’s cute. Slender. Her skin is caramel. Her smile broadens, her mouth opens. I see her braces. And the picture comes into focus: she’s fifteen. Maybe sixteen. Maybe fourteen.

Her smile is too open, too inviting.

I feel danger. I’m not supposed to flirt with this girl. Now I notice that her hips haven’t widened. The way she eats, her lack of self-consciousness: she’s not a young woman. She’s an old girl.

The danger is palpable now. She looks different. She’s not appealing but instead, repulsive. Not inviting but instead, just wrong. I want to say to her, “Don’t smile at men like that. It won’t end well.”

I struggle to look away. She’s a car crash waiting to happen. I open up my Chromebook, fix my eyes on the screen, and I type.

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