They had said 8 o’clock. He was going to go by her house and pick her up. They were going out to dinner and drinks. She had been partially ready since six, so ecstatic that she was actually going to see him tonight; that he had made some time for her in his busy schedule.
When he wasn’t there at 8:15 she called him. No answer. “He’s on his way. That’s why he’s not answering.” She thought smiling, and went to put her shoes on.
She stood at the door, checking her make-up in the mirror, phone in hand waiting for it to ring – him, to tell her that he was outside waiting. It didn’t. Silence from the wretched little slab of metal. She looked at it as though it was its fault it wasn’t ringing. “He’s gotten held up. No big deal, just a minor setback.” She said, out loud, so that it could be heard as if someone else was saying it. She sat down.
9 o’clock and he was nowhere yet. She looked at her phone again. She considered calling him once more, just to see if everything was alright and if they were still on for tonight, but had second thoughts; she didn’t want to seem pushy, and if he was going to cancel on her he would have called to let her know. Right? She called anyway. No answer.
Her stomach growled a bit since she hadn’t had anything to eat all day. She was waiting for tonight; and she was much too anxious to eat anything anyway. She got up, thinking for a moment that if she sat for too long that she would wrinkle her dress.
She had spent the best part of a couple of hours trying to figure out what to wear and deciding on her favorite blue dress; classy but casual, nice but not too formal. Then, how to do her hair so that it wasn’t messy but it also wasn’t too over the top. And then her make-up, natural but pretty; just right.
9:45 pm and she was standing at the window looking down at the street. She walked away and went to the table where she had her sweater, her phone and her purse, ready and zipped. She picked up her phone and took a look at it for the 350th time. She checked the ringer and, just in case, her past calls and texts. Everything was in order. Nothing new.
She walked back up to the window.
By the time she looked at the clock again it was ten past ten. She walked over to her phone and checked it again. Maybe she had missed something while that truck was passing under her apartment. The screen lit up. Nothing.
What the hell, it couldn’t hurt to give him another call just in case, right? It wasn’t as if she was calling him every five minutes anyway. She let it ring 5 times –her usual was only three, but maybe he couldn’t hear it– and then she hung up. “Maybe this time he’s really on his way”, she thought.
She walked over to the mirror and noticed that her lipstick had gotten all messed up; she had been chewing on her lip and she had ruined it. So she redid it and sat back down.
She gave up at 11. Three phone calls, three hours of pacing to and from the window, three hours of checking her phone and of readjusting her clothes and make-up, three hours of waiting later, she decided that he wasn’t going to show.
She didn’t bother calling him again.
She put her phone away, she took off her make-up and dress and went to take another shower. It wasn’t that she needed one. It was just that it was less likely for her to be able to tell apart the tears that streaked her face from the water that ran from the shower head. She didn’t want to cry; it was like a knee-jerk reaction to the rejection she felt all the way down to her bones. She just stood there in the shower for what seemed like an eternity and cried. By the time she was done and dressed for bed it was past 12 am.
She fell asleep swearing that this was the last time she would be left disregarded, hanging and disappointed.
It wasn’t so much the hours of waiting for him to come pick her up for their date that upset her; it was the months, weeks and days of waiting that did. It was not the first time he had done it; nor the second or third. And he wasn’t the first one to do it either. She should have known better by now, and she was angry at herself for falling into her own trap yet once again.
She got enthused, started having hope and a positive outlook about the potential –even if it was only a potentially amusing date– and expected that, for once, she might be right.
It was as if all her life she had been waiting. As if her life itself had been on hiatus for something or someone for as long as she could remember. And nothing ever seemed to come on time. Or ever. She just found herself, over and over again, expecting something or someone that never arrived.
She had finally grown tired of waiting for someone who never meant to be there at all in the first place.
And it had to stop.
7:58 pm. Her phone rings. She’s still putting on her lipstick in the mirror when she answers. It’s him and he’s waiting under her house. She giggles and grabs her purse as she hits the end button. They’re going out for dinner and drinks. She’s wearing her favorite blue dress, classy but casual, her hair is done up, but it’s not over the top and her make-up is just perfect. She smiles and winks at herself as she walks out the door.
As she skips down the last step, spotting his car across the street, a smile on his face as he waits, a shadow makes its way to her with a quick step. She turns to see who it is. In that second, weeks, months, days -and precisely three hours- of waiting flash before her eyes.
8:00 pm, right on time.
Eight months later.
“Hey, you” he says, his voice little more than a whisper, and he gives her a half smile, as if he’s apologetic about something. She pauses for a split second, just to make sure she’s hearing right. “Can we talk?” he asks.
Just that tiny falter in her pace, that momentary thought of him, the consideration to actually look at him and speak to him before she kept walking, was more than he ever gave her, more than he deserved.
Yet, she grants him a glance and six words as she passes him up.
“I’m sorry. You waited too long.”