It seemed like a moment. I met her at one of the places I go. She was working at the desk, looked me up in the computer. She called me, Mr. Lynch. I laughed, reached out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Bill.”
She blushed. We shook hands and she told me her name.
A week later in the same building, she stepped on an elevator and stood next to me, not saying a word. We went up a floor. She turned to me then asked, out of the blue, “What’s your favorite color?”
I don’t even remember the last time anyone asked me that and that’s what I told her.
“I’m sorry,” she said, embarrassed.
“No, it’s okay. I just haven’t thought about it in a while.” For a couple of seconds, I deeply considered the question then said, “I guess it depends on the day. It’s how I feel. Today, I guess, I feel green. Maybe tomorrow I’ll feel orange.”
She nodded, understanding. I don’t know if it was a test or if she was just looking for a reason to say something to me. I kind of hoped it was the latter.
“What’s yours?” It was now my turn to be kind of lame.
“Purple,” she told me, finally.
The elevator door slid open and she went her way. I went on the next floor, feeling a little baffled at the nature of the exchange.
A week passed, another week, then another and I didn’t see her except once, walking on the street, far away from the place I knew her. I almost stopped to say hello, but thought maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.
She contacted me on Facebook. It was random and out of the blue. I was a little intrigued. It seemed like… something.
We talked here and there, expressed our sanitized mutual admiration. She thought I was funny. I thought she was kind. We laughed together in front of our individual computer screens.
Again, there was a little momentum, the feeling that something could be happening. She mentioned a show. I thought, you know, maybe I could work something out, bring her along some time, something safe, something that wouldn’t actually have to be anything, but could be.
I moved too slow. The next day there were new pictures of the autumn leaves and the weekend she’d spent with her longtime boyfriend shuffling her feet through them. She smiled a lot. She positively glowed, but not because of the light, not because of the color clashing with her light, brown hair, but because she was happy to be with him.
Looking at the pictures, I was taken with how much younger she was than me. I felt my age. I felt my decades wrapped around me and chained to a lamp post like a bicycle chain. There was the fear, too, not just of being alone, but stumbling forward like a bull in a china shop and making meaning out of the meaningless.
In inexact words, she'd told me she admired me, that she liked my work and thought I was an interesting person to know. She thought I was a big deal.
I told her I wasn’t, but I was vain.