“Hi. Anjali?” A lopsided grin and uncomfortable eyes.
“Yes,” she says, her own eyes downcast, but taking him in all the same. “You must be Ryland.”
A pause, both of them waiting for the other to speak. They both start at the same time and stop together, wincing.
“Shall we?” Ryland says, gesturing and gulping for air.
Anjali nods and leads the way to the nearest table. They sit across from each other, taking the measure of the situation. A buzz of conversation settles over them, reminding each of them of their own silence. They look away at others, trying to ignore the awkwardness.
A waitress flits by and smiles conspiratorially. “How are you guys tonight? Can I get you started with some drinks?”
Relief. They order. He gets a beer and she has a mojito. The waitress nods, pleased by their choices and disappears. Ryland watches her go, before reminding himself not to and turns his attention back to Anjali.
“So, how was your day?” he says with an attempt at joviality. He winces at the sound and hopes she doesn’t notice.
Anjali suppresses her own grimace. These same damn questions. “I’m just glad it’s the end of the week.”
“Any big plans?” Ryland says, not wanting to lose the momentum he feels he has started.
Anjali shrugs, knowing she can’t say she will most likely spend the day on the couch in her pajamas watching Criminal Minds reruns. “I’m just getting together with some friends.” A safe, non-specific lie. “What about you?”
“Not too much planned,” Ryland says, considering and rejecting several possible answers, none of which involve him staying up until two in the morning playing video games and drinking beer with his roommate. “I was thinking of going on a bike ride on Sunday.”
The waitress arrives with their drinks and asks if they would like food. The both decline and she leaves them alone. Anjali asks about where he likes to go biking and he provides an overly long, detailed answer that he knows is utterly boring her and yet he cannot stop himself from seeing through to its end. He asks her what she likes to do for fun and she tells him something.
God this awkward, she thinks. This isn’t going as badly as I thought, he thinks.
Read the rest at Circumambient Scenery.
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