Rubbing Elbows with Elbows
Is it possible to fall in love with someone for things you don't even know about yet? The anticipation of adoration? I feel this way when I go days without seeing Elbows, then suddenly, her shift and mine overlap. I know she's there whether I see her or not, because I can smell her perfume. I don't have the heart to tell her it reminds me of my grandma's Kleenex. I don't know how else to explain it. It literally smells like a box of Kleenex. I used to hate it, but now it's a trigger. When she hugs me, I'll smell my shirt later.
This morning was no different. When she walks in, I see her out of the corner of my eye. More accurately, my subconscious saw her first. I read somewhere once that the brain is a lot more powerful and intuitive than it's probably given credit for. It's why they say your gut reaction is usually more correct than overthinking something.
I pretend like I don't see her. Deep breath. I continue scrubbing the chicken vat, pushing Yes when prompted by the digital display. Admittedly, my brain was suddenly trying to figure out the best way for me to say Good morning. Without looking like a sad, lovesick man fawning on his bi-sex-- lesbian manager. Luckily, when my time comes to head over to the other side of the grill to start cleaning one of the fry vats, Boss is also in the office with Elbows and the opening manager. I breeze by with nothing but "Good morning, bosses!"
It's not until I'm standing in front of the maintenance closet, chewing a mouthful of Cheese Puffs that Elbows comes around the corner. Her eyes immediately find mine and lock on. She knows how I feel about eye contact. She knows no matter how much I don't say, my eyes are a direct feed to my heart. There's no hiding the glow. In fact, she does a way better job than I do at making it look more like she's scrutinizing me versus trying to maintain some semblance of control and defense. It's hard to say.
"What?" I say this, holding my hand over my mouth, concerned my teeth are crammed with cheese puff.
"What? Can't I come see how my favorite maintenance man is doing?" She is smiling. Her eyes are narrowed slightly. Micro twitching. I fight the urge to tell her I love her. It wouldn't be a new thing. We've exchanged the words of love a few times. During the rough times. The supportive times. This time would've just been from the heart, so I refrain. She's watching my mouth. She hates my fake smile, but I'm sure my eyes aren't hiding for shit compared to my hand, which was still covering my mouth while I chewed.
"I'm pretty great, I guess."
Sometimes we hug, but I'm wearing my vat cleaning gear. She just keeps smiling. It's still not a smile of love but a smile of tomfoolery. Like she's still trying to gauge me. She reaches out and starts rubbing my elbows. This is new to me.
"My elbows feel like a cat's tongue."
"They feel weird, but neat. Is this the first time I've touched your elbows?"
"I think it is. How are you doing today?"
Before she can answer, someone comes around the corner and asks her a question. I've gotten used to it. We no longer get to have conversations. We get blurbs. Rather than stick around, I just smile at her and walk back to my vats.