Dates and Times
I leave for work everyday at 7:45. It’s four and a half blocks away. I always arrive at 8:15, which gives me fifteen minutes to get settled. At 7:56 everyday, I see you. You wait at the bus stop on East Macklin St. I don’t say anything to you. You’re one of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen, and I can see in your eyes that you’re just as lonely as me. I would stop to talk one morning, but I wouldn’t want to make you miss the bus or be distracted by looking for the bus to arrive.
With this in mind, there are two options of what could happen.
One, I talk to you, you turn me down. I come off too strong or eager, you’re more of a fan of guys who take it easy, who are relaxed about it. I try to seem relaxed, but I’m not, so I’m very obviously faking it. For this option, I really don’t lose much. I might have to change my morning routine because making eye contact with you after this would make me sweaty.
On the more existential end, I lose a little bit more. Because, right now, not talking to you, there’s this weird slight hope I always feel in my gut every time I walk by. This idea that, if someday I was to go up to you, you’d like me. But, after you turn me down, this hope is gone. I just have this weird empty feeling instead of a burning in my gut each time I see you. I’d rather have the burning feeling in my gut and the idea of you liking me than ever knowing you didn’t.
And the truth is I’m afraid to lose that feeling.
The second option is I talk to you, and you like me. For this to work I’d have to leave ten minutes earlier. I don’t want to make you feel rushed for the bus. If I was to walk by the spot ten minutes earlier, I don’t know if you’d be at the stop. You seem like the kind of person who arrives with time to spare, but I don’t know for sure.
So I leave ten minutes early. You notice me walking by earlier than usual, maybe I have something to get to at work, you’re not sure. Instead of my eyes facing the ground as per usual, I look where I’m walking, and today I’m walking towards you. I introduce myself, you do too, but quietly. You’re shy like me. We talk for a few minutes, and then out of the blue I ask if you want to hangout. This throws you off, but not to the point of being against the idea. You tell me your friend is having a party tonight, I can come if I want. Yeah. That sounds fun.
You answer the door to your friend’s house, you texted me the address. We awkwardly greet. I try to say more, but you’re not in your work clothes. You’re absolutely stunning. I don’t know how to describe what I’m feeling other than that I’m infatuated with you. We walk downstairs, you lead, I follow.
This is where two more options open up.
The first is that we date. That night at the party we hit it off. Your friends like me, and you notice that I’m making an effort. We date for a few months, maybe six. We’re comfortable around each other. But, then there’s this other guy. You met him at work, one of the transfers. He’s exciting and successful. Someone anybody could get behind. You work together a lot, and then one day you realize you’re in love with him.
So you leave.
And then I realize that without you, I don’t know who I am anymore. I stopped thinking of just myself and always included you. There’s this crushing loneliness. Every time I think of you, I think of you with that guy. I feel replaceable, and I don’t know how this feeling could ever go away.
But then there’s option two.
We hit it off at the party. We date. Six months goes by, we’re comfortable with each other. There’s a new guy at work but you like where we’re at. We get married. You get a promotion that you didn’t expect, and we have to move. You don’t want to take it, but I tell you I can just get a new job, maybe they’ll let me transfer. We move. We have a family. We grow old. With every gray hair I still think you’re gorgeous.
Even with all of the other possibilities, this one might make it worth it. Maybe I will go up to you.
I’ll set my alarm clock ten minutes back.
more by TYLER CLIFTON
photograph by Scott Webb