She followed the waiter to her table. Her mom or aunt had obviously reserved a cosy table for two in a quiet corner of the restaurant. She frowned, and hoped that Set Up #3 would be interesting enough to get cosy with. She noticed though, that the table was empty.
She looked quizzically at the waiter, who just shrugged and informed her that no one had arrived yet. Hmmm… Strange. Her first instinct was to leave, but she stopped herself. Maybe he was stuck in traffic. She decided since she was here, she might as well just tuck herself in and wait a bit longer.
As the wine glass emptied, she started getting annoyed. Where was this guy? Had something happened? Had he chickened out? Or, had he come in, taken a look at her and changed his mind?
The third possibility troubled her the most. She sculled down the remainder of her wine and decided to leave. Whatever it was, he was more than half-an-hour late and she was leaving. She would have called him if she had his number, but she didn’t. Something to do with him not having a local number or something. Whatever! She had given him the benefit of the doubt, and now she was done.
She was in the midst of paying her bill, when she suddenly saw him. Him.
She squinted, pretty sure that one glass of wine was far from enough to cause her to hallucinate. If she hadn’t just run into him a couple of hours ago at The Park, she wouldn’t have been so sure. But it was him alright. He had just walked in the door and looked a little confused. He turned around to the nearest waiter, saying something, and she thought he must be looking for his table. She noticed there were a couple of empty tables in the corner, and another with a woman sitting alone, obviously waiting for someone to join her. The waiter obviously wasn’t giving him the information he needed, because he seemed to look more confused by the second.
She signalled to him and he looked up, catching her eyes. He looked surprised, and then his face broke out into a huge smile. One that made her breath catch, much to her surprise. What had they put in that wine?
“Twice in a day!” she laughed as they both greeted each other with a quick hug. He smelled good, she noticed.
“Yeah I’m supposed to meet someone here and I’m already really late…”
“I think your table is over there,” she volunteered, nodding towards the table with the lone woman. Rather attractive, though in a conservative, motherly sort of way.
He followed her gaze to where she was pointing and stared at the woman for a bit. “Of course. Trust my sister to fix me up with someone who looks like that!” he muttered.
“You’re meeting her for the first time?!” her eyes widened in surprise. She never took him to be the sort who would agree to going on a blind date.
“Yea, my sister caught me in a weak moment. Her friend or colleague…said she knew this girl….something. I really was in the midst of so many things that day and I told her OK, just so she would get off my back…”
She laughed, “That is SO weird! I was supposed to meet someone here too! This must be like the place around here for blind dates!”
He smiled, then looked at her again. “Supposed to? What happened? Where is he?”
She shrugged, slightly embarassed. “He, well, didn’t show….”
“Well.. I was supposed to meet him more than half-an-hour ago and I just got tired of waiting really. Maybe he came in, took one look and ran off!” she joked.
“Babe, no guy in their right mind would do that!” he said looking her straight at her. Her heart fluttered at the unexpected compliment.
“Well it’s no big deal. We haven’t even spoken before, he’s my aunt’s colleague’s brother… or something. Just because he’s working in Europe somewhere he’s apparently an excellent catch! I mean, he obviously doesn’t even have the decency to keep to his word. If I had his number I’d have given him a earful, but I don’t. Some lame excuse about not having a local number!” she rolled her eyes and continued, oblivious to his reaction.
“Anyway it’s no big deal. I’m doing this more so that Mom will be occupied… You know her, she loves all this fussing and excitement….” she finally trailed off, noticing that he was wearing a deep frown on his forehead.
“Wait. Which aunt is this? What’s her name?”
She told him her aunt’s name and his eyes widened in surprise. “That’s my sister’s friend!”
“Oh really? They know each other?”
“No, I mean, that is my sister’s friend who fixed me up on this blind date today!!”
She blinked. Huh? No way. So that meant… Her mouth dropped open in surprise as she struggled for the right reaction.
“So… you are my date for tonight???” She shook her head in disbelief. This was all too bizarre!
“I guess so!” he said with a chuckle, looking equally surprised.
He ordered another bottle of wine. The date, set up, whatever, was going really well. They had gotten over their initial shock and were soon bitching to glory about the concept of matchmaking and blind dates and how every ‘older person’ in their lives were eager to see them get hitched as soon as possible – with the next person that crossed their paths.
“Even my sister has joined their camp these days! She thinks there’s no point in me earning and making money if there’s no one in my life to share it with,” he grimaced and took a sip of his wine.
“And what do you think?”
“Well, to be honest, I have to admit that it would be nice to have someone…. But it’s not just about that. I want someone I can relate to, who can understand where I come from, what I stand for… you know, all that stuff…”
She nodded. She knew exactly what he meant, and it wasn’t easy finding that person either. Just then an all-too familiar song played on the radio – Boyz II Men’s “Water Runs Dry”, and she found herself having flashbacks of her college days.
“You know I played this song in my room so many times after we lost touch,” he suddenly said, breaking into her thoughts. She looked up in surprise because she too had often thought of him when listening to this tune. Their eyes locked and time froze. So much had happened since then, a lifetime had passed, they had changed and grown. And at the same time it felt as if nothing had changed at all.
“I always regretted the way we ended things. The way I handled it…” she said, feeling relieved that she could broach this subject with him.
“I wasn’t the easiest person to deal with back then either. I mean, I totally see why you said no…. why anyone in their right mind would have. I was so…. pathetic!” he said with a laugh. “And I thought I was king of the world!”
“You do realize it wasn’t all you, don’t you? I was in a different place back then. We were such good friends and I was so young… I really didn’t even know myself very well back then, much less know what I was looking for in someone else…. I’m not sure I still do!” she said with a smirk. They both smiled and caught each other’s eyes. There was an understanding, a maturity in their conversation that had not been there all those years ago.
“Anyway the odds of us having lasted it out is almost zero. We were only 21. And damaged at that!” she joked.
“But you wanna know something? Every woman I dated after that, I always compared with you. I probably let a few really good ones go too… but yeah. I think I saw you as my saviour, my guardian angel even. And no one else could come close… sad as that sounds!” he shrugged, trying to dismiss the depth of what he had just said.
Her breath caught and she felt slightly dizzy, though she wasn’t sure if that was the wine. What did he mean? Did he STILL feel that way? Her heart was beating a thousand beats per minute.
“Professionals would say that you deliberately set yourself up for failure,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.
He just looked at her, unblinking, unflinching, and with the gentlest eyes that held memories of yesterday and promises of tomorrow. Eyes that questioned and answered at the same time. All the memories from the past came flooding back and she knew that if they ever wanted to move forward they had to talk about it, and let it go, once and for all.
“I missed you when you left you know,” she whispered. “You didn’t even say goodbye…”
“I was hurt babe. I didn’t know how to react, how to show my face to you again. I was a boy then…”
A man now… she finished his sentence in her head. What was she waiting for? Clarity? Certainty? Was there such a thing? She had gone out with guys whom she shared half as much in common with and far less chemistry than this.
It was he who broke the silence. “Have you ever wondered, if things… You know, IF. If things were different, if we hadnt drifted apart… Do you think we would be together?”
She froze. He had read her mind. The question she had asked herself many times over the years – he had wondered it too. She wasn’t alone! But then again, with him in her life she had never been. Oh how stupid she had been to not pick up the phone and call him even once all these years. The times they could have shared. The time they could have saved! The absurdity of it all made her eyes well up.
“Babe, I didn’t mean…”
“No no I’m fine. Just a little overwhelmed..” she wiped her eyes and took another gulp of her wine. It was now or never, she thought with a deep breath. His eyes pierced hers, searching the depths of her soul.
“I’ve always missed having you in my life babe. No matter who else was in it, when I was happy I would always want to share it with you first and when I was down… I knew that if only you’d been around you would have understood. Perhaps I too was unconsciously comparing every guy I met to you… I just never realized I was. I just thought my relationships kept falling apart because of the whole issue with my dad… which I guess was partly the cause…”
She was rambling. She wasn’t sure where she was going, but she knew it had to be said after all this time, so she plodded on.
“I really don’t know if we would have worked out. If we had stayed in touch, I don’t know that we would still be close friends, or whether we would have evolved into something more. I don’t even know if you mean what I think you mean or if you don’t… but I can’t afford to take the chance…” she glanced at him. He looked a little dejected, and she mentally kicked herself.
“No wait, that’s not what I meant….”
“OK, maybe I should just keep this simple….” she said and took his hand. His eyes were full of questions, and she hoped she had the answers to them.
“Babe, I don’t know what the future holds. But I think there was a reason why the fates conspired to make us meet this time. We’ve both changed… and maybe… we’re finally in a place where we can actually do this, where we can be together without causing serious damage to each other…” she smiled.
He looked like everything she wanted and more. She waited for what she had said to sink in, and she relished each reaction on his face – first confusion, then a tinge of surprise, and then finally, a ray of hope.
“So, wait. What you’re saying, in a really roundabout way, is that you want to give us a shot??” he said, trying to contain his overwhelming joy, wanting to be absolutely sure he hadn’t misunderstood her.
She laughed and her heart sang, “Pretty much! Only if you’re willing though…”
His heart felt as if it had combusted and become whole again in an instant. The vision in front of him, that smile, had plagued him so many years ago. And after they had bumped into each other earlier today she had started to plague him again. It was all too familiar, but only it was different this time. What would he do if he couldn’t see her again? He couldn’t take the chance.
“I could never live with myself if I didn’t try,” he said taking her hand in his. Where they belonged.
Some people will work things out
And some just don’t know how to change
Let’s don’t wait till the water runs dry
We might watch our whole lives pass us by
Let’s don’t wait till the water runs dry
We’ll make the biggest mistake of our lives…
.. Fin ..