The door hit her on the way in and she felt more invisible than ever. Her throbbing shoulder brought tears to her eyes as she glared at the man who had let the door go before she could make her way into the restaurant. She couldn’t help feeling slightly sorry for herself, rubbing her shoulder as she made her way to the hostess. She was guided to a solitary table at the back of the restaurant, and she slid into the booth. She swallowed the tears, trying to subdue her anger at the rushing man. He never saw her, not even a glance. She looked at her reflection in the small mirror and tried to discern whether she was as invisible as many assumed her to be. Her eyes were brown and glittered with vulnerability; her lips were a delicate balance between full and fine. She fixed her face, forced a smile and put away the mirror. ‘I hope its not going to be a long wait’ she thought as she tried to catch the attention of a waiter.
Just then she caught his gaze. He was looking right at her, unabashed, unwavering. She looked away and was relieved to have a harassed looking waiter block her flushed face. She delayed giving him the order, to regain her composure. The waiter removed her wine glass and moved to the side and she glanced over at him again. He was looking away, deep in thought, also waiting for someone to join him. As he sipped his neat vodka, she followed the liquid make it’s way past his jaw, perfectly angular as if sculpted with a scalpel. His protruding Adam’s apple moved slowly up and down, and he glanced over at her, only to meet her staring eyes. He smiles slightly, as if pleased to catch her looking without abandon. She flashed a flustered smile and looked down. And then up again. He was talking on the phone now, laughing, flashing his slightly crooked teeth, brilliant white. He seemed so at ease, so relaxed, his shoulders straight, his posture confident. He continued to laugh on the phone but looked at her again. Something about his gaze made her feel like she was being looked at for the first time. Not looked through, but looked at. He really saw her. He acknowledged her. She began to play with her bracelet. The thoughts spinning in her mind, ‘was he mocking her, was she wearing her top inside out, did she have a bright patch of blush on her cheeks?’.
It had been a long time since anyone had acknowledged her. It wasn’t like she didn’t feel attractive. She just didn’t feel worthy of notice. And over the years, she had given up the idea, being grateful to have married and settled down. But marriage didn’t mean she was acknowledged. In fact, it led to less of a presence. She didn’t matter anymore, it seemed. But she forced herself to overcome these stifling thoughts. She wasn’t a newlywed, or a teenager who needed constant attention. She had forgotten what it felt like to be seen. And then today he reminded her. He was off the phone now. She could hear the tap of his fingers from across the room. She looked up and he smiled again. She didn’t know whether to say something, so she flushed and looked away. Would he get up and greet her? How would it be to sit opposite him, rather next to him, in this booth? Would she lean onto him? Would they laugh? Would he giggle at her feeble attempts at jokes? Something her husband never did. He didn’t see any humor in her thoughts and softly she had stopped expressing them. She laughed at his because he was so confident in their validity. Would he make her feel beautiful even as the dark circles lined her eyes? Would he think her fiery when she was annoyed or would he think her strange? He smiled as if he could read her thoughts. His expression of intrigue made her wish she could just make her way over. Was this how the books explained an attraction?
She felt the booth press under a weight. Her husband was here. Late and predictable. He gave her a kiss on her cheek, always soft never passionate. He picked up the menu and asked her what she wanted. So calm and unaware of her treacherous thoughts. She looked over to the man across and saw he had company too. He smiled at her and looked back at his partner. She turned back to hers and smiled.
Life goes on doesn’t it she thought as she ordered a Caesar salad.