In Your Chest

You were standing behind him in line at Starbucks, doubly distracted. First by his order, a tall non-fat no-foam latte, or no-fat non-foam—you weren’t sure, and you were puzzling over the syntactic protocol while looking at a flyer on the floor, bright orange, plain lettering, DOVE CLEANERS, and you were distracted by the immediate image that was imprinted in your mind, a dove, the purest of birds, and why would anyone ever need to clean one?

And then suddenly his elbow was in your chest, an accident, and he apologized profusely, “Sorry, I’m sorry,” and he looked genuinely surprised that someone had been standing that close to him, and you felt worse than he did, like a ditz who got in the way of normal people who were trying to carry on their lives, and never thought about it again until you were sitting with your grande something non-something, hoping to savor the contrast between its milkiness and the sour dryness of the lemon scone, and there was a stab of pain, sharp this time, not dull like when his cotton-shirted elbow had thudded against you.