Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA


Published in Strays.

“I don’t quite understand where you’re going with all this, but I can tell you I don’t exactly have the patience for it right now,” she said, pushing the cocktail napkin back to him. “Maybe I’m getting the word wrong? I-idiom? It’s an idiom. W-what I’m trying to say is I think people like us think we’re special, but also like w-we’re not worthy of special attention.” Picking the napkin back up, the words smacked from his lips, “‘Y-you have to treat me special for me to feel average. A-and if you treat me average, I feel rejected.’ Get it?” She let out a deep sigh, trying to use the momentary pause to alert him that sitting in public with a drink at 3:34 in the afternoon is never as much of an invitation for random men to talk at her as they usually seem to think it is.

“What was your name again? Greg? Greg, I don’t think you’re listening to me when I tell you that I don’t want to talk right now. It’s not about you. It’s not about anything you’ve done. I just want to sit here and try to not think about the day I’ve just had without the constant babbling of another human being trying to insert themselves into a moment of my life that I haven’t welcomed them into. You sat down here—what—twenty, thirty minutes ago, and not once have I asked you a question. Greg, I don’t care who you think I am. I don’t think approaching a stranger with this bullshit is cute or heroic or whateverthehell you think it is. I don’t care about the message you’re trying to give me about the type of person you think I am; excuse me, the type of people you think we are.”

Gary sat quietly with his napkin, nervously working it into a tight ball in the middle of his palm. “And because you don’t seem to understand that I’m not interested, you’re forcing to me to leave just so that I don’t have to be bothered by a stranger anymore.” Claire stood up, leaving her drink untouched as she walked to the bartender’s station to retrieve her credit card. “R-rejected again.”