You sit down opposite them in the break room. The bookworm doesn’t flinch. They figure you just sat there because you didn’t want to sit with the girls from the make-up counters. They understand that. They don’t want to sit there either. Those girls are scary.
The bookworm doesn’t look up. They’re reading, and you don’t know each other, after all.
“Is that a good book?” you ask.
“Yeah,” the bookworm smiles so you don’t know that inside their heart just sank to somewhere in the region of their socks. They had this thirty minutes to read before returning downstairs to sell handbags to people who consider politeness as disposable as income. But, they figure, it’s kind of nice to talk about books with strangers. It’s much better than the last person who sat down opposite to tell them about a regrettable one night stand.
“What’s it about?” you ask.
They put the book down, their finger still keeping track of the page they reached. There is still hope that this conversation might end soon.
“It’s a murder story,” the bookworm says, smiling conspiratorially. “Set in the nineteenth century. This girl’s mean scientist dad died under mysterious circumstances. She’s trying to track down the killer. It’s very feminist.”
“Oh,” you say, conveying zero interest in your inflection.
“It’s really great,” they say, with enough enthusiasm for the both of you.
“I don’t really read,” you say, and shrug. Then you change the subject to something else entirely.
The bookworm watches their half an hour drip away into nothing.
You did it. You alienated a bookworm.
The bookworm wonders if you know this. They assume probably not.