There’s a bar by the windows. She sits there partially because there is nowhere else, and partially because of the trapped feeling that blossoms in her chest as she looks around the otherwise packed cafe. Here, she can study the stained glass of the theater across the street. Here, she can keep an eye on those who walk in, out, and by…and also on the corner of the room, where the door reads EMPLOYEE’S ONLY in damning red letters. Here, in the corner of the bar where she can see it all, she feels safe.
She knows that safety would be gone the moment she passed through the labeled door, the moment she slipped underneath the EMPLOYEE and shut it behind her. The idea makes her chest flutter weakly within its cavity – or maybe because of the person sitting beside her, with the flat chest and the shaved head, who she can’t stop stealing glances at. She knows she wants to grab their hand and run through the door, throwing ideals of safety out the window for the chance of adventure and maybe love…but instead she remains sitting. She’s quiet. She reads her book by the windows, easily distracted by passers-by.
Instead, she dreams.
—It isn’t safe, just beyond the door. She hears it buzzing. It’s constant, like the soft whir of a fan, but higher pitched. As though there’s some sort of frequency attached to it. No one else seems to notice it and never has. Despite the fact that she’s come here every day for months, she’s never once witnessed an employee step past the threshold. She wants to know what the buzzing is – almost yearns for it sometimes, on the days when the fluttering in her chest gets overwhelming and the fear subsides just long enough for her to wonder if it would be worth it to run through and forsake it all. She knows that ultimately, it’s too much for her. She never could. She relishes the safety of her books too much. She relishes the dream of slight perfection in the back of her head, the one that always pinpoints the person with the shaved head and tries to beckon them to look over at her.
For the first time, in that moment, they do. They look with their soft grey eyes at her and the fear all but leaves. Instead she’s caught by their beauty, the simpleness, the way the corners lead up into soft eyelashes that almost touch their cheeks as they blink. It’s in that moment that she decides. Fuck the fear, fuck the buzz, fuck it all.
She doesn’t speak, she just stands, and she crosses the room. No one notices, no one at all, except for the person with shaved head whose eyes follow her all the way. They follow her even as her fingers touch the knob. The buzzing has grown increasingly louder.
Louder, and louder still, until it’s all that’s in her head. Except for those grey eyes, which for some reason keep her unafraid. She looks back at them. They look back at her.