I am in AMERICA (cue spaghetti western music and flag waving), where random strangers strike up conversations all the time, and where eye contact and small talk don't necessarily mean flirting or insanity. I think.
At Fresh Pot: I'm at the condiment station sugaring up my small double latte.
My age-ish guy holding a cup of regular coffee: "That looks really good. Better than this."
Me: (thinking, what does he WANT?) "Um, yeah. It had a beautiful fern leaf, but I stirred it."
Him: "Really? Beautiful fern leaf, huh? Wow, that's cool."
Me: "Uh, yeah." (Give him a confused but friendly smile and back away to find a table.)
At a donut making party hosted by my friend, where I know exactly one person.
Standing by the garbage bin, I'm bent over scraping dough off my hands. A girl comes over and deposits something.
Me: "Wow, the embroidery on your sweater is so beautiful!"
Her: "Thanks! My friend did it..."
Me: "You know, standing here like this, I was at exact eye level with your boobs and it just jumped out at me."
Her: (Gives me a strained smile and walks away.)
In line on New Year's Eve to get into a discotheque on the East side. My friend and I are decked out in some over the top spangled baby blue dresses.
Woman behind us in line: "Wow, you guys are wearing ball gowns!"
Me: "Yeah, we're going to a powder blue party after this."
Woman: "You look great! People in Portland wear too much fleece and clogs."
(Conversation ensues about flannel, polar fleece, and fashion.)
A girl that I recognize from the donut party (not embroidered boobs) comes out of the club. I smile at her and give a little wave.
Donut Girl: "Hey, do you want to get in for free?"
Me: "Well, sure!"
DG: "I have a plus one, I'll tell the door guy. What's your name?"
DG: "I'm Kate. I'll tell him."
Woman behind us: "Hmph! I wish *I* could get in FREE and be on the LIST without a NAME."
I feel her eyes boring into the back of my sequins. Just when I was getting better at the small talk thing. So much for our burgeoning friendship.
I just know that I am going to get really good at this again, the art of chatting up people on the corner, just in time to go back to Japan. I can imagine the scenario. I walk up to some dude at Doutor:
"Nice hair. Do you use Mod's wax?"
Him: (Scrabbles away from me in a panic, spilling his royal milk tea on his handbag. And has a story for years to come about the crazy lady who accosted him in the coffee shop back in 2010, and how he was lucky to escape unscathed.)