I notice him staring, my body unintentionally tenses.
Don’t glance to your left.
I hold the book in my hands, flipping through its pages, unaware of what I am skimming.
Read with intention.
I am aware that he has started to walk towards me, his friend chuckles, I feel him stop, a foot away from the right side of my body.
Don’t look up.
“I’ve read that book,” he starts, “good one.”
I close the book to look at the title, ‘Milk and Honey’ by Rupi Kaur.
The unintentional irony is not lost on me.
Don’t laugh. Don’t smile.
This is what he wants, he wants you to engage.
He wants a response.
“I liked it so much because that’s my middle name, Milk and Honey.”
“That’s a unique middle name,” I hear myself say.
As I speak I picture Milkandhoney written down on a birth certificate.
I exhale some of the tension coursing through me.
“What’s your middle name?”
The word feels personal as it comes tumbling forth from my mouth.
“What is your first name?”
I glance at my boots, shouldn’t have worn heals.
“Tyler. What’s yours?”
Tyler Suzanne, why did you just ask him a question?
“I don’t have a first name, people just call me Milk and Honey.”
I wonder who is listening to me engage in this stupidity.
He goes on, “My friend over there was too nervous to come say hi to you, but if you would just give him a wave that would make his day.”
“And make you, what, five dollars?”
I look right at him.
“Ten actually.” He grins. “We can split it.”
“No, you enjoy all ten of those dollars,” I hear myself say as I tuck my hand into my pocket, “buy yourself a bagel, throw some lox on it.”
He smiles again, chuckles, and walks out of the store.
“Wait” I want to yell after him.
“Has anyone ever made 10 dollars by turning you into a game?
Has anyone ever interrupted your personal space solely for their personal gain?
Has anyone ever made you purposefully uncomfortable?”
“I didn’t think so.”
Instead, I purchase the book and leave the store. As I do he falls into step beside me. I slow down until he is a few inches in front of me.I keep my gaze steady as he turns back to catch my eye.I shift my undivided attention to the floor, slow my pace even more so until I can sense that he is gone.
I board the plane and I write and write and
I write until my words become a new narrative
so that when the plane lands and everyone else leaves
I no longer have to.