step one, say hi.
the reply won’t reach your ears.
watch her mouth shape the word instead.
don’t be offended if hers is a straight line.
step two, talk.
ignore her quivering lips, pulsating temples and wide eyes that will dart around for an escape door.
make sure to block such doors with heaps of warmer, kinder smiles.
I know you’re bored, but make her feel like a diamond mine you’re excavating. you might, in a while, tumble upon a gem.
step three, don’t ask her what’s wrong. don’t enquire about the kittens clawing at her tongue or the fists she’s hiding in the folds of her skirt.
don’t ask her if she’s wearing a mask,
why her expressions aren’t coming through.
step four, ask simple questions. preferably yes or no ones.
more warm smiles and crinkled eyes would help.
do not ask her to speak louder, her lungs are sobbing so hard, she can’t.
step five, pretend to be a little awkward yourself. you will find her seizing the opportunity to deliver a ten worded sentence.
acknowledge this wondrous attempt by agreeing with her.
don’t be disappointed when she remains impassive to this kind gesture.
one day, in the near future, she will explain to you how she’d actually felt. how nothing could compare to that little success story.
step six, if she is still uncomfortable, leave. if she isn’t, carry on.
step seven, don’t forget to come back.
step eight, don’t forget to come back.
step nine, don’t forget to come back.
step ten, don’t tell her how much she has changed. don’t ask her to speak softer, in fewer sentences.
don’t constantly make references to your initial conversations,
or tell her how her heart had been thumping so loud the first time, that words seemed to crawl back into her mouth in fear.
or how her terror had been so palpable that you kept poking it, wounding it, expanding it.
don’t tell her how badly you’d wanted to laugh at the pathetic plunge her pitch took on slightly longer words,
step eleven, lie instead.
you had been awfully impressed at her ability to make conversation.
her face had seemed calmer than a monk’s.
her eyes had spoken volumes the first time.
her voice had flooded the hallway. it was so loud.
lie, lie, lie to her.
she will ask you if you’re being honest. swear that you are.
step twelve, don’t forget to come back.