Don’t ask me why I didn’t say hi to you. I will tell you immediately that I’m shy. The response will be as the default ‘I’m fine’ to every ‘How are you?’ I’ve ever been asked.

For a moment, I imagine that you would call me proud. I will try to argue with you because for a moment I think that I need to explain myself like I usually do when I miss my mum’s calls because I’m at a party and because she has panicked, and called my aunt, my sister, my brothers and maybe ancestors that I have not been picking her calls.

So maybe panic is heritable because now I’m looking at you surreptitiously hoping you would understand what social anxiety can do to you. No, I have not completely owned it. I am simply acknowledging it.

Before you start talking about being intentional, remember that I have tried to lock eyes with you hoping you would know that it means that you exist to me and I can see you.

You will be in a group of friends and you will laugh loudly. You will see me and I will break eye contact faster than I’ve broken all my promises of waking up early every day. You will have a frown on your face because you will find it hard to understand why I didn’t say a word to you.

Now I do not know the true definition of courtesy or its expression and I have truly failed to acknowledge the depth of salutation, but I can walk into a room without saying even the simplest easiest two words ‘hi’. My friends will say hi. They will smile back, they will wave. Some of them will stop for a while to banter a little. I will keep walking.

My poor but fairly manageable eyes will scan the room looking for the safest corner—the corner without drama or humans— and will settle there. It will recognize it as my new comfort zone and create a true interpretation in my head of a new territory.

My expression is naturally glum so the catatonicity may pass as flamboyance. I will walk calmly and sit comfortably, hoping my beating heart will become steady as I press my phone mindlessly, embracing the distractions.

Later, you will sit near me and you’ll say hi to me and you will smile because you know smiling makes people comfortable.

Unfortunately, it will be the wrong time again because now the curse of my mood swings has appeared again, at this ungodly hour when your empyrean presence has chosen to find me. I will not smile back because I have a failed degree in pretence. But I will try. For you, I will try because you have a nice smile and you have a beautiful face.

The smile doesn’t work and then you furrow your brows again and now I can tell immediately that you have an opinion of me. That I’m weird, strange, unusual. You wouldn’t need to say it but I will know.

Like me, you don’t know how to pretend and maybe that is our sad similarity. Sad because maybe if we both pretended, we would have gotten along.

In all my lessons of management in school—taught by well-dressed lecturers who appeared to be in their forties and look like the kind of people who look in the mirror and say their affirmations aloud, drink dark coffee and keep a todo list for every task—I have never been taught how to manage my emotions.

I am not surprised because it’s not in the school’s curriculum but now I need it more than ever to rise above this mood swing so you can see that I can be fun sometimes.

Ah, the need to be validated. The need to be accepted is surely human. But the reliance on it must be minimised. I wish I could tell you about the hedonic treadmill and how I feel like my happiness baseline has now dropped to a 5 or even a 4.

The truth is I do not need you to see it, but I wouldn’t mind if you did as long as you keep smiling. I know that a nose piercing will fit you like a beauty mark but you do not look like someone that likes piercings.

That would again be a sad difference between us because now I am planning my next three piercings. You will think I’m weird again because I will fiddle with my phone to break eye contact with you. Don’t think this is a cue for supposed attraction. It’s simply shyness. And this will sound cliché but it is me, not you.

You smile again, misinterpreting my reservation and shaky eye contact for a lack of self-confidence and maybe streaks of infatuation. This wrong impression will then make me smile because you do not know me. Have you seen me dancing in front of the mirror? Have you heard me sing in the shower? Then, the world is my oyster and I walk in it with so much gusto, you would never believe it was me.

You will keep staring at me trying to make a small banter and you will fail at it because my answers are mostly gesticulations.

For that, I am sorry. My mood swing has taken over for now and I cannot simply relax with you. I want to, I promise but my willpower has been depleted completely. I am now a robot being controlled by my emotions and I am ashamed of it.

Later, you will see me laughing with my friends, this time even louder than your initial laughter when I walked in.

Your brows will furrow again and this time hold a new emotion ‘surprise’. You will blink twice and wonder if I’m the same person. But one of the things we again failed to acknowledge was that sometimes, my mood swings faster than my decision-making skills.

So that after you left, I began to feel the wave of anxiety slowly fade as soon as I heard a distant piano instrumental. It sounded like music under water and a smile broke out and my mood swing was over.

My social anxiety was over as soon as my friend sat beside me and started talking to me too. My shyness faded as soon as I became comfortable in my new corner/territory.

This time when my eyes meet yours, I will be the one to smile at you, hoping you would understand the words unsaid, the emotions unfelt, the silence.

Most importantly, I hope that you smile back at me, with your imaginary nose piercing, shining and glittering in my alternate reality.