Hot on the heels of the last challenge, @mreauow & @Making_Pots and I set up a whole new challenge.
The challenge: You’ve been stood up, people are staring and talking, they’re trying to kick you out if your date doesn’t show soon. Some random person shows up, and says, “Just go with it,” and holy shit, you had a great time!
Then we hashed out the details.
Let me tell you about the problems I had with this one.
Just Go With It
We’d agreed to meet at her favorite restaurant, a trendy hot-spot downtown, halfway between our offices. Twenty minutes I waited for a table. I spent half an hour trying to get a hold of her, playing games on my phone and being harassed by the server at intervals. The intervening moments were divided between wondering why she hadn’t gotten word to me and contemplating calling my ex to see what he was up to—we’d always been better as friends.
Finally, the manager stepped in. “Sir, I’m sorry, but if your friend isn’t here in five minutes, I’m going to have to ask you to either order or leave. Customers are waiting.”
“Fine,” I told him. I finished the level I was on and reached for my coat. She still hadn’t shown up. Any worry I had slipped away, leaving me with only frustration from being stood up. Even a quick, “I’m sorry” text would have done the trick. Instead, she ghosted me.
That’s when you showed up, windblown and breathless. You dropped your hand on my shoulder and leaned in for what looked like was going to be a kiss. “Just go with it,” you whispered instead, then louder, “Sorry it took so long. Did you get my text? My phone died during the meeting.”
“No.” At least I wasn’t lying about that. I didn’t get your text. I didn’t even know who you were.
But you were cute. Your tie dangled from the breast pocket of your coat, and I ached to drag my fingers through your dark, shaggy hair. Your voice, a rich, textured bass, wrapped around me like a warm blanket.
“Oh.” You paused for a second. “Crap. I did it again, didn’t I?”
“Texted my brother instead of you.” You gave a sheepish smile, your blue eyes sparking with a hint of mischief.
“Hi, I’m Kevin, and I’ll be your server tonight,” the server said, interrupting us. “Can I start you off with drinks or an appetizer?”
I gestured to you to start.
“Scotch on the rocks, and can we get the appetizer sampler?” you ask. You smile at me. “It’s been a long day.”
My stomach tightened at the thought of food. I’d neglected it that day and hadn’t eaten anything since lunch at eleven that morning. It was almost eight.
Kevin nodded and turned to me.
“I’ll just have a beer—whatever’s on tap.”
Kevin gave me a glare and left us.
“Maybe it’s time to change my contact I.D.,” I suggest, picking up the conversation.
“To what, though?” you asked in an obvious attempt to learn my name.
“Well, you call me ‘Sweetie’ which rhymes with ‘Petey,’” I said. I gave you my name and hoped you picked up on the flirting. It was so easy to flirt with you that I forgot to feign mad at you. “So ‘Petey’ works.”
You laughed and told me that was a brilliant idea. “So what game did you play to keep busy while you waited?”
“Ooh. New high score yet?”
“Let’s see it,” you requested with a grin.
I unlocked my phone and slid it over to you. “How was the meeting?”
“A complete drag.” You picked up my phone and instead of going to the game, you opened my contacts, added yourself in and sent yourself a text. Your pocket chirped and buzzed, and I saw the little smirk on your lips as you slid my phone back.
I glanced down at it. Felix Garcia was proving easy to talk to. Your casually outgoing personality put me at ease, and I forgot that I was supposed to be angry at someone who didn’t even have the courage to call and say she wasn’t interested. Before we knew it, the sampler plate had been cleared away, our orders devoured, and the bill paid. We’d hit it off, and I didn’t want the evening to end.
We stood beneath the street light on the corner waiting for the walk signal.
“I’m sorry if…” you started.
“It’s cool,” I replied. And it was. If I was reading you right, you were interested, too.
“No, I mean…”
I sighed. I had to know. “Why did you rescue me?”
“I’m pretty sure the woman who stood you up is an architect at my firm.”
“You work for Bigsby, Nash, and Garce… You’re that Garcia?”
You nodded. “The meeting did run late, and I apologize. We gave everyone time to call home, but…” You sighed heavily.
“Do you like…” I didn’t quite know how to phrase the question. I wanted to verify that you liked men, but that question stuck. Instead, I asked, “Do you like coffee?”
You laughed. “Yeah. Look, I uh… Running a business makes it hard to socialize very much. Being gay only makes it harder. I hope me playing the part of your boyfriend wasn’t… awkward.”
“It was less awkward than sitting there alone waiting for someone who never planned to show up,” I noted. Inside, I kicked myself. I should have told you it would only be awkward if it didn’t end with a goodnight kiss. Your knuckles brushed against mine and my hand shifted to catch yours. We turned into each other and stepped a little closer. People rushed by when the light turned. We were rooted to the concrete. “Are you single?”
“I have a feeling I was until just now,” you said with a little smile. “So she was right?”
“Who?” I had no idea what you were talking about.
Too busy thinking about kissing your lips, too busy staring at them to care about anything else, I’d already forgotten about her.
“I overheard her say she thinks you’re gay. Is she right?”
Now I laughed and lifted our linked fingers up between us. “She’s half-right,” I concede with a shrug. “I’m bi.”
Your smile grew and your dimples flared to life. “Coffee sounds good.” You leaned in and brushed your lips against mine.
I swear my heart fluttered.
What was shaping up to be one of the worst dates of my life turned into the best. But that was then when you were thirty-seven and I was thirty-two. We’ve been together since then, and while we’ve had our ups and downs, we’ve endured and lived shamelessly and madly in love with each other.
Silver strands have replaced the rich black that your hair used to be. Your eyes, previously so vibrant, have faded to the palest of blues, and the smile lines around your eyes aren’t the only wrinkles you have now.
Next week marks fifty years since the day we met, but you won’t make it that far.
These latter years have been the hardest. I promised to always be there for you, to always love you and to never give up. Lord knows I’ve wanted to so many times.
Watching your—our—life slowly leaving your eyes as the memories fade like dusk into the inky blackness of a moonless, starless night hurts the most, knowing you don’t remember all the love we’ve shared, the family we’d made. So many advances have been made in recent years, but a cure for Alzheimer’s isn’t one of them.
Our children and grandchildren are all here.
We tell our favorite stories and laugh, but when I look into your eyes, I see only shadows of who you used to be, the man I fell in love with, again and again, day after day, for fifty years. You’ve been asleep most of the morning, but now, I feel a weak squeeze from your fingers to mine.
The room falls silent as your eyes flutter open. I catch just a hint, a glimpse of the spark from the night we met. “I love you, Petey,” you say as I lean in.
A lump forms in my throat, tears slip down my cheeks—you’re having a good moment, and I want to hang on to that for the rest of my days. “I love you, too, Felix.” My voice is shaking so hard I barely get the words out.
You bring your hand up to my cheek. I hold it there and touch my forehead to yours.
“I’ll never forget you again,” you say, and kiss me.
Even as your grip loosens and your lips part from mine, I clutch your hand tighter and beg for one more moment. I need another moment with you — just one. But that moment has already passed and I’m left with the sound of my heart shattering. I shift my gaze to our family and see tears in everyone’s eyes. One-by-one, our family joins us, and somewhere in the back of my mind, I hear you say, “Just go with it.”
If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to cry some more over this piece.