By Rebecca Foley
“We should have lunch sometime,” she says.
We should have lunch sometime. A phrase meant to be laughed off, returned to sender. Deserving of a ‘get your girl to talk to my girl,’ or a ‘when I get a lunch break’; this isn’t an invitation. Be wary. Be careful not to be too dismissive; the same amount of commitment inherent in a ‘Let’s meet up’ must be mirrored in a ‘This week’s no good for me, but sometime when things are less hectic?’ Never say you have Wednesdays free. Wednesdays free is the pale, soft underside of your neck, right where all the blood is. Wednesdays free is a throat torn out in the liminal scrub behind someone’s backyard. No. Carefully non-committal. Not too careful – a ‘That sounds great!’ or a ‘Sure, see you around!’ is the most bloodless of all offerings. This is the conversational equivalent of gutting a fish to find it empty, just a cold, fleshy sack of nothing. The viscera of conversation sanitised beyond reason by an overzealous mother. No. Add detail, just enough to be convincing. ‘There’s an Italian in Kangaroo Point I’ve been meaning to try – that’s near you, right?’ Or redirect to themselves. ‘How can you even think about inviting me over for drinks – didn’t you have your birthday the other day? How did that go anyway?’ Take a sip of cold coffee and don’t wince. People like to peel meat off bones. Carefully tear at the soft flesh of a wing and place the bones and tendons gently on a plate. Here you are, growing an extra limb from the vulnerable arch of your spine and turning around, shrugging your shoulders slightly, bared to the prickle of eyes in the notches of your vertebrae. You seem interested. You seem like a home invader punching in the glass next to the lock. Don’t ask where she got her shoes. Smile, stare at the space between her eyebrows, the bridge of her nose. Don’t ask if she really wants to get lunch, when is she free, when can you see her, if the soft baby hairs that frame her face get annoying because they just look so soft but she’s always scraping them back, make eye contact, not too much, tell her sure no worries, the buzzing patches taking over your vision are just too much caffeine, turn away, yes the numbness of your shoulders and elbows are due to normal conversational jitters experienced by the average person, don’t look back, twist your hands in your lap where no one can see this isn’t a problem you’re fine and the bony fingers raking welts between your ribs are just pulling at your lungs, just depleting your oxygen, just making it so so hard to stay still and not squirming trembling pile of guts numb and buzzing in the very beatless heart of you.
“Wow, buy me a drink first.” Fucking idiot.