Romance II

The story, I'm told, goes like this.

Once upon a time the girl in this story was just a friend of a friend of a friend of the boy. The boy liked her right away, that much he knew. She was beautiful and she was funny and she didn't care that she was wearing a football sweatshirt and warm-up pants at a bar.

"This is just comfortable," she said later, "and it's Sunday anyway."

When they first met, he didn't know what to say to her. The boy wasn't very good at this sort of thing and even if he was, this girl was out of his league. Too pretty. Too clever, too quick. Too much. So he just smiled, and she smiled back, and that was that for a while.

Some time later he saw her out and because of either not caring or not being totally sober he found the courage to go say hello to her. They talked for a bit, about things like sports and growing up and weekend nights and their respective lousy jobs.

"I was wondering when you were going to do that," she said.

"Do what?" he asked.

"Figure out why I was smiling at you so much," she shot back. He knew then that he didn't just like this girl's style; he liked this girl.

He asked her to meet him out one night.

"I don't know," she said. "How do I know you're going to do this right?"

He knew what she meant. He knew there were a lot of bad guys out there, and he wanted to prove to her he wasn't like them.

He gave her the name of a bar he liked. A fairly nice one, at that.

"I'll be there this Wednesday at 8," he told her. "And I'm going to have your favorite drink waiting for you. Just drinks. I'm not going to ask you to leave here with me tonight and you don't even have to give me your number."

"That's putting a lot of faith in me," she said.

"So at least this way it works both ways," he said back.

She looked at him quizzically for a second, then relented. "Okay," she said. "Chocolate martini."

He went home that night thinking how awesome this was going to be. He was going to look nice and do everything right and she'd see that he wasn't just some jerk. And for a little while longer they would laugh and giggle and make smart jokes about smart things and it was going to be a wonderful evening, he thought.

He got to the bar a few minutes early and found a table by the window, just as he had promised. He ordered her a chocolate martini and put it on the table across from himself and the beer he was drinking. And he waited.

And he waited.

And he waited.

And after some time had passed and the room had filled and the ice on her glass had turned to water, he realized his fair maiden of that Sunday afternoon wasn't coming. Down but not defeated, he left the bar and headed home. Her martini stayed on the table, untouched.

Some weeks later he saw the girl again. They made small talk, nothing major. They didn't laugh this time, didn't giggle, didn't make the kind of connection they had before.

"What's wrong?" she asked him.

"What do you mean?"

"You're acting weird," she said. "Not like I remember."

He paused for a second, then looked deep into her eyes.

"I waited for you," he said.

She fell silent, knowing that the boy meant not just that night at the bar that she never went to but something bigger. That for a moment she was the promise of a beautiful tomorrow, but now just cast back into the abyss of memory and that which never was.

He turned and walked away, and the two were alone again, and their story, like most, ended the way it began. They were friends of friends of friends; to each other, they were no one in particular. Such is life.