I checked my phone for the eighth time in half as many minutes. Ten minutes until we start and no sign of you yet. The bench outside of Bowtie Chelsea Cinema beckoned me, the printed paper tickets in my hands fighting against the wind. Our text conversation lay stale in my palm.
Then: three dots.
If this was a test, I was sure to fail. I avoided an immediate answer, scared that my sudden anger would blow my chill girl cover. Up, up, up I scrolled — to my apologies for drunken advances on the night we met, which sat squarely next to your insistence that it was fine, or even funny. We flirted, we bantered, we planned this date. You told me that you had never been to a film festival; I felt special to be able to take you. Your very existence had excited me.
“Oh man, this will be fun haha. What’s your ETA?”
Casual and cool — that’s the persona I had decided on. Four minutes until the film started. The dots appeared almost immediately.
“Please forgive me. I promise I will make it up to you...but I’m taking a cab home.”
That heart-sinking feeling came alive in me. The time on my phone read 9:29 — still one minute left for you to take it all back. Sixty seconds for you to materialize, laughing “ha-ha” at your funny joke that had almost killed me. Just enough time for you to link your fingers between mine and drag me towards the door.
I settled into my seat, off to the left only four rows from the front. Isolated. I tried not to notice the couples peppered in the rows surrounding me, but all I could see was the hand-holding and shared buckets of popcorn. I pulled a half-drunk bottle of lukewarm water out of my bag and took a sip.
The movie had already begun when I realized it was a psychological thriller, something sure to give me nightmares. I hadn’t done any research. My thoughts easily wandered from the screen to your hands — how much they would’ve comforted my jumpy heart. I stayed through the credits and the conversation with the director. Justin Long was there. I was not.
I decided to walk from 8th Avenue to Park Avenue for the 6 train, thinking only of how you had left me tonight in stark contrast to when we met — that night when you drove me home and bought me pizza and kissed the top of my head as you put me to bed.
Sleep was a gift, separating me from my conscious thoughts. And in the morning, I felt the pangs of innocent hope again. Work dragged as I awaited your Apology Text that would be followed by a Rescheduling Text that would be returned by my Eager Text. I checked my phone meticulously.
Time moved at half-speed while I went through the motions of professionalism. Answer an email, press the home button on my phone; go to a meeting, and secretly check my screen for the hope of your name; dial into a call, then forget the world as I scroll through our text history. It had already become a ritual.
Soon my impatience got the best of me, and by noon, your clock had run out. I naively believed you were shaking off the last bit of an ugly hangover — a little nudge couldn’t hurt.
“So are you alive?”
Casual and cool, not even acknowledging that you had left me shivering on 23rd St. the night before. Meticulous became obsessive, and there was no sign of the three dancing dots.
The text made my anxiety worse. Time rolled onwards. 2pm, 4:30, 6 o’clock. I didn’t regret my text until the minutes kept passing and your silence stayed constant.
Four days passed before your name crossed my screen again, just in time to undo all of the work I had done to get it out of my head.
“Happy Sunday :) Have you realized how bad I am at texting yet?”
It wasn’t so simple, it shouldn’t have been okay, but I let it be. Even though you had made the effort to reconnect, I still took the lead in plan-making, as I had done before. I offered up the days of the week where I had endless post-work hours to spare; surely we could make something work?
But your schedule was less forgiving, obstacles at every turn. Still I tried and tried. And finally, I offered my white flag:
“How about you let me know when you’re free?”
I never saw those promising dots under your name again.