Posted on 16-08-2015
I hate being late. It’s a sign that you haven’t thought things through. That you haven’t planned ahead. But today work was threatening to engulf me completely, and I wasn’t about to spend yet another evening staring at my computer screen. I check my phone for messages and then remember there’s no phone reception down here. I stuff my phone back in my pocket and vault up the stairs, politely escaping the hoards of tourists trying to navigate their way. I’m twenty minutes late already, and within minutes I’m back on the street, the cool evening air whipping around me. I zip my coat up higher and walk up the street, fingers digging deep into my pockets for warmth. I glance at my reflection in a shop window and notice to my dismay that my once elegantly styled hair is now a messy mop of haphazard streaks, blowing in the wind. I reach the restaurant door and quickly compose myself, before running my hands through my hair to make it look as presentable as possible.
I step through and the warmth inside rushes towards me, warming up my alarmingly cold fingers. I mumble a feeble “I’m meeting someone” to the waitress who greets me, and I scan the busy tables for him. In the least-crowded corner I spot him sitting at a table, a bottle of red in front of him and his glass in hand. Fuck, I mentally say to myself, and move over to join him. He instantly brightens up and sets down his glass, standing up to give me a hug. His breath is warm against my neck for the brief moment we embrace, and his shirt has a slightly earthy, wooden scent to it. I was beginning to think you weren’t coming, he adds playfully as we sit down. I smile sheepishly and apologise for my lateness, but he dismisses it almost instantly. You’re here now, so don’t worry about it.
A drink appears in front of me – a tall martini glass with a frosted rim and a light pink concoction. I’m about to ask the waitress what it is when he interrupts me. It’s virgin, don’t worry – I think you’ll like it. I lift the glass to my lips and my tongue savours a light and slightly sweet drink with hints of strawberry and ginger. He watches me take a sip and raises his glass to do the same. Cheers, I say confidently, meeting his gaze and clinking our glasses together. I got you something, he adds, reaching into his pocket. He places on the table a bright white and red coloured ball on a stick, loosely wrapped in cellophane with a small red bow at the bottom – a cake pop. You were talking about Red Velvet some time ago, so I thought you’d like a sweet treat, he adds craftily.
It’s adorable and cheesy at the same time, but I smile at him and pick up the delicate confection. We lock our gazes again, and I can feel his urge to reach over the table and kiss me. I wonder what that would look like here – what other people who say or if anyone would really care at all. I would just have to lean over the already diminutive table and kiss him, smelling that familiar woody scent once again. I shut the moment out of my head and snap back to reality rather abruptly. Thank you, I say as he smiles for another sip of wine.
We’ve played it safe tonight with Italian, though I know we could have certainly found a less popular place to have a more intimate evening. But above the din and clinking of glasses we talk about work, travel, families, relationships, and food. The conversation is now effortless between us – the wine certainly helping things along – and the more I talk the more at ease I become. I look at him again – really look at him, and take in his many details. A slight scar near his left eye, round glasses that he keeps pushing back, light and wispy hair that would look better cut short, a smart shirt with the top button unbuttoned, and a playful and slightly boyish smile that comes to light every so often. In that moment I realise that I don’t want the evening to end, as cliched as that sounds. Because that would mean having to wait for a text or call the next day or the day after, to see if we should meet again. Or we continue to meet and start to like each other even more. I drag him halfway around the world to a friend’s wedding, and we have the best night of our lives. We grab last minute tickets to a show and don’t care that they’re terrible seats because he’s sitting next to me and laughing along. He attempts to coerce me into loving the great outdoors, which is a terrible, terrible idea, but he is stubborn and refuses to give up. We throw a dinner party and friends comment how perfect we look together. We travel to see families at Christmas, and spend New Year’s Eve on the rooftop freezing in the cold but keeping each other company before running back indoors. He asks me to move in, and suddenly it is as real as it’s ever been for me. No games, no drama, no second-guessing, no lies, no bullshit. Just him and I and our many years ahead.
No – this evening, this night, this date, is all I will care to remember.