283. What It’s Like to be Shy (fiction)


I was about to start on this week’s post when (for some reason…probably to delay the actual work of writing) I took a look at my blog entries that held pieces of fiction that I was working on. I haven’t put anything up there in months (like since April).

Anyway, I’m looking again at what I had posted there and I came across this little story and I was cracking up because it was so much fun (if I can be so modest). And I thought I’d share it with ya’ll.

Just a note, this is FICTION! It might sound like me and while it’s loosely based on me, it’s not me… mostly.

Hope you like it.


What It’s Like to be Shy

At The Coffee Shop:

I dress anonymously. I avoid color and fashion. Blue jeans and a dark (but not too dark) shirt.

I sit in the corner and face the window. I used to face the wall but one of my friends (one of four) told me it makes me look a bit crazy and kept me from blending in.

I scan the crowd but avoid eye contact. At the window in the front of the shop there is a row of barstools and a counter where patrons rest their lattes while flipping through the local weekly or write on their laptops. Sometimes I’ll spot a woman sitting there whose hair style attracts me and I imagine that she has a face with a beauty unique to my quirky aesthetic. Sometimes she turns and shatters the illusion, but more often than not, all I ever get is her ear lobe and the curve of her chin. And that can be enough.

At the Barber Shop:

When I get a trim, I always hope for a stylist who just cuts hair, who doesn’t bother with small talk.

I would never say this, because that would be too forward of me, but as I’m sitting in their chair, I always think to myself, “please, please, just cut my hair. Don’t ask me how my day has been. Don’t ask me what I do for work or for fun. Don’t ask me if I’ve seen any good movies. Don’t ask me about the latest reality show.”

“Just ask me how I want my hair done (short and thinned out), ask about my sideburns if you must (just even them out), but overall, just let your scissors do the talking and I promise a generous tip in return.”

In a Group Setting (say at a staff meeting):

People are often surprised at my insight and willingness to speak up. They think that because I am soft-spoken and reserved one-on-one that I would be more so in a formal group setting.

What they don’t understand is that it’s the personal part of personal interaction that I find acutely uncomfortable. Speaking in front of a crowd is easy because in a group, people become anonymous, impersonal, other. And when someone from the group responds to what I say, they are responding to the idea presented not to me, and that makes me feel safe.

Sometimes after a meeting where I had been especially vocal, a person will come up to me and ask if I would be interested in discussing my ideas further with them, perhaps over lunch. I find a polite way to tell them I can’t and that surprises them. I don’t tell them this, of course, but I decline because that’s just too much, too close for comfort.

Perhaps I miss out on promotions this way, and I’ll admit that it’s frustrating to watch people with an abundance of social skills but a dearth of intelligence work their way up the pay scale, finally settling in a position where their ignorance can flourish.

At the Bookstore:

I head first for the magazine rack, but my time there is short – catching up on the latest computer news and reviews. Most of my time is spent among the Literature shelves, particularly the New Fiction section.

Some recommend meeting women in the grocery store but that seems wrong to me. How much can you learn about a person based on vegetables, meats, and starches? I find the bookstore much more telling. I mean if I see a woman smelling the rind of a cantaloupe, what does that tell me, that she likes fresh fruit? But if I see a woman flipping through Sylvia Plath, I know she’s hurting something bad. If she’s reading Jane Austin, I’m thinking she’s probably got impossibly high standards. Jack Kerouac tells me she’s probably too bohemian for me and Toni Morrison that I’m not smart enough for her. And on and on. Much more informative.

Of course, being as shy as I am, all I ever do is watch. . .or what’s the more modern word for it? I lurk. And if I see a woman reading Douglas Coupland or Michael Chabon or T.C. Boyle, I just dream about what might be if I had bravado, and lines, and looks.

In My Dreams:

I’m taller and better looking. I dress better because I know how to dress better. I’m smooth and suave. I have women at hello.

I had a phase where I dated casually and widely. I unintentionally stole a couple girlfriends from their boyfriends though I didn’t know it at the time. However, I am now past all that exploration because I have found the love of my life. She is warm, witty, sharp, and in possession of natural, effortless beauty.

We work at our relationship. We do our best to fight fair. We agree to never hold grudges and we try not to.

I enjoy spoiling my love with style and surprise. I send her random, gooey text messages while she is at work – things like, “all u ever have to be is u and I’ll fall in love over and over again.” I imagine her reading those messages in the middle of a meeting. I imagine her hiding her smile behind her hand, pretending to cough. After the meeting is over she shows the message to her girlfriends and they laugh while wondering why their boyfriends aren’t as wildly romantic.

She finds surprising ways to return my favors. She sneaks a secret cup of pudding into my lunch bag. She draws a heart on the back side of my spoon so I don’t notice it until one of my coworkers points it out. He laughs at me just as her coworkers laughed at her but he laughs for a different reason, though deep down inside where he’ll never admit it, he laughs for the same reason.

[the end]


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