She looked at him.
"I don't know how to answer that," he said, flushing and blanching several shades of uncomfortable. He squirmed under her unblinking gaze. He felt like a specimen. Perhaps he was.
"You don't have to answer. It wasn't a question." She tilted her head, assessing him with her eyes. Had he once thought those eyes lovely? He couldn't imagine. She continued.
"You don't need to answer, explain, or make excuses. You've already used the 'my life is complicated' line, and the 'I'm going through a weird period' one, and the one that goes 'I'm a solitary person.'"
She was going to make a scene. Oh, God, please, not a scene. Anything but that. He glanced at the floor, hoping for a hole that might swallow him, but the unfortunately colored linoleum was relentless in its solidity. He tried to forestall her.
"Have I offended you? Because if I have, I apologize." She shook her head.
"Listen, Alex, I get it, okay? Okay? I've just been blown off in all the classic ways, plus a couple of new ones, in the space of one conversation. I've made you uncomfortable, because people don't love people without wanting something from them, except I do, and I'm sorry you don't understand that. I get that 'I'm really pretty busy these days' means you'd rather not hear from me. And your 'list of people I need to make time for'? I get that I'm not on it. It's okay."
Alex shifted in his chair, lips tight. No, he didn't understand her, and didn't think he wanted to. He wished he could disappear. He wished she would.
"So, I'll see you around, maybe, which, in case you wondered, means 'goodbye'. It's not a difficult word. No, don't get up," and she touched his shoulder. He struggled not to flinch. She kissed his forehead and he congratulated himself that he did not recoil. The door chimes jingled as she pushed through the door, leaving behind an empty paper cup and the scent of her hair.
Alex sighed and picked up his pen.