I have this spider-filled stomach when he makes eye contact. In these meetings, I always sit within eyesight of him. I can’t sit at the table; anxiety keeps me from moving farther in. I stay near the door, in his eyesight, but outside his hands’ reach. Today, he winked at me. Sometimes, he will come sit next to me, usually on my left side. Last time, my mentor kept the conversation. Today, my mentor is gone.
When he asked me to meet him afterwards, I said I was busy, said I had something after. There is no one to keep the conversation away from me today. He came and sat next to me anyway, this time on the right side. Rolled his chair in my direction, and sat too close. I felt his breath, warm and stale brushing my cheeks. There are gummy bears lodged in my throat. “Don’t leave,” he said. “I like you.” Pushed his lips in a pout and opened his eyes wide.
My old professor appears in the back of my memories, asking “Why don’t you come visit my office anymore? I like you.” The skin on his face is discolored, like my old professor. His is balding. He always wears vertically striped shirts. The top button is open, and he has a white undershirt. All of his teeth are crooked, and his eyebrows are always lifted, throwing forehead lines into light. He takes up space. He earns almost 6 figures. When people in one area become frustrated with him, he is rotated to a different area. He cannot be fired. He always leans back in his chair with his hands on the armrests. He always sits too close. His eyes are wide and searching. He has a small lisp. His hands are always grabbing. The table, my shoulder, the armrest, my shoulder, the chair, my shoulder, the laptop, my shoulder.
I push the limits of my chair’s constraints, until the armrest digs into my ribs. He will ask to see me after meetings; he will only come to meetings to see me. “So your last day is Friday, huh? I don’t want you to leave.” His gaze wraps around my trachea. He looks at me for confirmation that his jokes are funny. No one laughs, and I look away.
“Tell him to get his hands off you or you’ll smack him upside the fucking head,” my mentor said later.
“Are you uncomfortable telling him to stop?” my supervisor asks.
“No. I have done this before.”
I prepare to tell him to please not touch me please, because I do not like being touched please.
I do not demand to not be touched. It is just a friendly pat. It is just a hug. It is just a touch. He didn’t know.
Sarosh Nandwani is a 5th year Mechanical Engineering & Anthropology student. She’s been writing poetry since high school (when it was ridiculously angsty) and been impulse buying poetry books ever since. She loves watching stand-up comedy and trying to de-frizz her curly hair.