I met her at a diner far away from this bar I'd just quit. I'd worked there for the three previous years, and I just wanted to be away. So I drove until I arrived someplace where nobody would know my face. I didn't need to go far, just over 20 minutes, but it felt worlds away.
I thought you couldn't meet people in public at my age. The first two years of college had been the last time such was possible. Since then, public became a place you showed up with people you knew. Or a place you went alone to meet someone who was coming for you. Someone who by showing up signaled to the rest of the world that you mattered.
If not the world, then to you. Because the world doesn't paying attention actually.
The world, everyone else, pays no attention to you, because everybody else is focusing on getting their own signals. Nobody wants to be caught in public without that other person signaling out that, yes this person matters to me. Since we are all fixed on securing our signals, we don’t notice those around us or whether they matter to anyone or not.
Maybe she was a rare non-human, not fixed on such inherent trivialities. Maybe she hadn’t been worried about her signals, and thus were worried about others’. And so she noticed me, sitting at my table babying a cup of black coffee in the pitch black night.
“Hi. You’re alone aren’t you?”
I must have made a face because she reassured me the way I remembered a nice recess lady doing when I was a kid.
“Oh don’t worry. It’s not…” she searched for her words carefully. “I just know what alone looks like.”