“The Perils of Dining Alone*”

I saw her enter the store
and time stood still
for everybody there.

She turned everyone’s heads.
She disappeared behind me
but reappeared moments later

in my field of vision
and sat in the opposite table.
She placed her phone

against her ear
and gazed sideways
at my direction.

Then her eyes scanned the room
and she gazed outside
and looked straight through

the glass wall,
obviously expecting someone.
At that moment I knew for certain

that only three more glances
are needed to seal my demise.
The first glance: I saw her long hair,

her figure, her olive green blouse,
and faded blue jeans.
I forced myself

to look at the worksheet
in front of me.
The second glance:

I saw her face more clearly
and I lost my equilibrium altogether.
I fixed my eyes on the computer screen

and tried to make sense of the email
I was trying so hard to finish writing.
She fidgeted in her seat,

and once or twice from the corner of my eye
I noticed her again
looking straight at me,

then through me and towards the people
outside passing by.
All my thoughts were lost —

work, plans, goals, people,
books, and authors —
they all hurled themselves

out of the window
and plunged into the concrete floor below.
I couldn’t afford to lose my mind.

I knew without a doubt
that the third glance
will almost permanently fix her

in my memory.
I preferred to let her image
disappear like smoke from my brain.

I preferred to forget her entirely.
So I sent the email,
finished the report,

packed my laptop,
drank what remained of my Americano,
and with weakened knees,

unsteady feet, and scattered mind,
I walked as fast and as far as I can
away from the coffee shop.

*This is an old poem which I have recently revised.

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