I have to apologize for not having a post for last night. I sat down to write and suddenly I was invited to an emergency jam session! And that’s why I didn’t have anything. So here’s the one that should have been last night’s; stay tuned for an extra post tomorrow or the day after.

Anyway, methinks it’s time for a return to stories, don’t you?

—~

 

I arrive, of course, ten minutes early.

I park my car in the lot right in front of the restaurant. Premium spot, in the shade–this is why it was a good idea to leave home early, I think, smiling to myself. I leisurely put the brake up and sit in the car for a few minutes, adjusting my seat, knowing I have some time to kill, unwilling to leave the icy air-conditioning. I glance at the digital clock on the dashboard, just to make sure I still have plenty of time. 1:51. Oh, only nine minutes, then.

There’s not much to look at, parked facing the wall of the restaurant, so it occurs to me to check my cell phone. What if Kate had texted me while I was driving that she couldn’t make it after all? That would be terrible! But there are no messages, so I lock my phone and check the clock again, sure at least five minutes have passed, only to find the digits stubbornly the same as they were the last time I checked. I begin to wonder idly if the clock is broken. Wouldn’t that be just great, if I’d been working on a broken clock all this time, and Kate was already sitting in the restaurant, waiting for me, all because my stupid clock was slow. I check my wrist watch instead, and then my cell phone. They all agree; it is only 1:52.

I sigh. Make myself relax in the air conditioning. My eyes wander out the windows into the heat and onto the highway from which I have just come. I examine intensely every single car that comes racing down the road, scanning, searching, hoping for that sunny flash of beige. Every car that slows at the entrance to the restaurant I stop in its tracks, interrogate, search, and, disappointed, send on its way. One of these cars has to be Kate. She’ll be here any minute. Maybe she got a new car, and I won’t recognize it.

No, you dumbass, she didn’t get a new car, and even if she did, so what, just wait, you have almost ten whole minutes before she comes! She might even be late. That makes fifteen minutes. Do you realize how long fifteen minutes is? It’s a quarter of an hour. A whole quarter of an hour. An hour! When you were little, an hour was forever. So calm down, stop worrying. You have time.

I look at the digital clock again, staring at it, willing it to go faster.

Why would you do that, come on, most of the time you’re begging time to slow down, huh? What if it listened to you and from now on you’d never have enough time to do things you want to do? What if the Time gods decided to heed you now and your entire life would go rushing by before you knew it, just because one day you were impatient to meet someone for a lunch date?

I turn the keys. Enough of this sitting in the air conditioning. At least I can be standing outside, so when Kate comes she’ll see me right away and won’t possibly miss me. I gather purse, my sweater, and the little wrapped box with a bow I have for Kate, extract myself from the now sleeping automobile, and arrange myself so that it looks like I’m leaning nonchalantly against the hood.

I’m not going to look at my watch just now, I’m going to turn it right side up so that I can read it just in case I decide to later. I make it look like I’m adjusting my bracelets, then cross my arms. I can’t help tilting my arm just so, and inclining my head just enough to read my wristwatch–1:55.

Excellent. Only five more minutes to wait.

A red sporty-looking car slides into the restaurant’s entrance driveway and careens around the parking lot until it finds an empty space in the sun. A man jumps out, spins his keys and blips his car shut, heads into the restaurant. Now there is a man with a mission, I think. He knows what he wants and he’ll go get it. Huzzah.

I won’t look at my watch again. Instead, I keep my eyes on the road, vigilant for a sign of familiar golden metal slowing up at the driveway. Instead, a grayish minivan pokes its nose into the driveway as if to ask permission to enter, and, sure that it’s welcome here, nudges its way along until it pulls into my row. My eyes follow it until it finds a spot of its own and carefully edges into it.

1:58.

I shift my weight. It’s such a nice day out today. What a lovely breeze. I should wait in the sun. No, I should stay by my car. Where else would I stand? I’m not going to just stand randomly in the middle of the parking lot. I’ll look like a weirdo. Not to mention be in the middle of the road.

Oh my goodness. I forget if I locked my front door or not. I hope I have. Jerry was sleeping when I left, so maybe when he wakes up he’ll realize and lock it. Or not. I’d better remind him. I take out my cell phone to text him, then put it back. Don’t be silly, I’m sure I did remember, and even if I didn’t, so what?

So what? What if today someone decides to break into our house and they can because I left the door open and they steal all our stuff and kill Jerry and burn down our house? All because I forgot to lock the front door? I could never live with that on my conscience. I finger my cell phone.

Swallow it. You’re being stupid. Your mind is racing. Jerry and the house will be fine. Put away your phone, don’t worry about it, and just have fun with Kate. That’s all you need to do.

Speaking of Kate, it’s 2:01. A honey-warm feeling of accomplishment flushes through me (I made it. It’s two. I thought it would never be two), followed by an instant, vague nervousness. It’s after two. We were supposed to meet at two. Where is she? Weren’t we supposed to meet at two? I take out my cell phone and scroll through my text history. Yes, it was definitely two, and this is definitely the place.

Maybe my watch is fast.

Fine, I’ll wait until my watch says 2:03, and then it’ll actually be two, and then I’ll be allowed to panic.

Ahem. Not panic. Be just a little worried.

But what if Kate got into a car crash? What if she’s in some horrible accident, being rushed to the hospital right now, and I’m standing here like an idiot waiting for her? I’ll be waiting here forever. And what kind of lousy friend would I be if she was dying and I didn’t know.

It’s 2:03. Nothing’s happening, she’s probably on her way, maybe there was traffic, maybe she hit a pothole, maybe she’s getting dressed, maybe she’s just late, maybe a thousand things could be the case that aren’t horrible and don’t mean that she won’t be sailing into the parking lot any minute now, and you’ll be on your way, having a nice lunch with her…

Lunch with Kate. What a concept. I haven’t seen her in about two years, but when she called me the other day to tell me she was in town it was like no time had passed between us. I worry what we’ll talk about over lunch today, but there was no radio silence to speak of during our three-hour phone conversation. Well of course we’ll have to talk about what we’ve been doing for the past two years. That’s as good a conversation starter as any, I guess.

If she ever gets here. Calm down, it’s only 2:05.

And then–could it be?–at last, glory to the high heavens, a familiar gleam of sunlight on beige–a car comes zooming up the driveway–a familiar golden head inside. The honey feeling comes back again, even warmer than before, swelling up from my stomach and into my smile. The sandy-colored car bounces around the parking lot and lands in my row. It’s over. I’ve made it. It’s 2:05 and Kate is here, and all that worrying was for naught, and I’m glad I came early and got a spot in the shade after all.

Quickly I try and make it seem like I haven’t been standing there doing nothing for ten minutes; I play with my purse and gather my things and adjust my shirt. She parks and floats out of her car, as golden and pixie-like as ever.

‘Hey!’ she greets me. ‘How’s it going!’ She beams and comes toward me, arms open wide for a hug.

‘Hey, Kate,’ I say, hugging her. ‘It’s been a while. It’s good to see you.’

‘You too. I hope you haven’t been waiting long?’ she asks as we head into the restaurant.

‘Not long,’ I say.

 

 

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