Across from you, I hide in plain sight, sipping on a fix
Of iced coffee and neurosis. Watching your words spout
Off into sentences which resolve into open air then collect
Into piles at my feet. Little tapes of thought reeling out
In tandem, a tangle, a tender blur of noise I cannot grasp
Nor follow. Volume raises its head to the height of my neck,
Keeping me tied down in measures of politeness.
Its touch is grey, unsettled, uncertain around my arm. As if it
Wants me to stay put and yet would not be upset if I were to
Slip away. Which is an option, of course. Between you, me, and the
Small party amongst us, I am a ghost. An unwelcome guest left
Out from your bubble to grasp onto snippets of conversation.
You look through me, an acknowledgement I am here, a by-line.
Yet we have so little to say. Shame salts my tongue, stinging
Deeper, a vertigo doubt, plunging under reaction.
We talk in decaffeinated tones, impersonal, indifferent –
Language shared between friends, in theory, shouldn’t be so
Dry, right? – This feels to me like stranger’s apathy,
Brittle and cheap, taut to snap if either were to walk away.
My fear tastes of spit. Of drowned-out words, of half smiles.
Of overthinking, overcompensating, over nothing.
I laugh off-cue, try to catch your eyes and make some form of contact.
I nod my head, play the friend, ignore how these lines of our chit-chat are
Taking my throat, a sensation as passive and strange as a
Summer in September.