Granted, the dinner was scheduled the night before my birthday, but it was very much planned as a birthday celebration. Instead of being picked up at 7:30 by my front hedges, I was standing out on the sidewalk alone in my party dress, looking down each end of my street to spot anyone approaching.
No one appeared.
I'd come outside a bit late, having spent a little extra time getting ready, dressing a little fancier than I would for a night out on the town on my own, so when I came outside to be greeted by no one, I knew I was being stood up. It's happened enough in the past, though this was the first since I'd moved to LA. (Plenty of other Angelenos had merely flaked on me, forgotten me, never called me back, never made a plan, or bailed on me at the last minute, but never did they just not show up.)
I immediately called my dinner date, leaving a message that half-heartedly laughed, "I hope you didn't forget about me...", and reminded him of my address and the color of my building and trim.
I then called Michelle back in New York, who's gotten too many calls like this from me in the past.
"How long am I supposed to wait?" I asked, as I reentered my building and went back upstairs to my apartment, pacing the floor and occasionally checking the front window to see if anyone had arrived.
After a half hour, I decided to release Michelle from our call and try to come up with a Plan B for the evening. I felt foolish not already setting a Plan B, especially since I'm usually triple-booked for any given evening, having an exit strategy and plenty of alternative amusements in case my main plan fell through. But I'd had no plan at all for my birthday until receiving this invitation, so I'd arranged no back-up.
"What am I supposed to do now?"
Fighting back the tears, I kept my party dress on and walked through the neighborhood, making a knee-jerk decision to stop into a local restaurant that has a cheap prix fixe dinner on Sunday nights, with cheap bottles of wine. When I ordered one of each, all to myself, and a nearby bar patron commented on how I'd taken advantage of "all the deals," I quipped, "That's what happens when you're a lady and you've got to take yourself out to dinner."
Fortunately, the night wasn't a total bust. I had a good meal. I had a good time, chatting with my fellow diners and a cute bartender from New Jersey. I didn't tell anyone why I was there alone. I drank the entire bottle of wine myself, despite having offered sips and tastes, which were politely declined.
I tried to extend my solo celebration until midnight, when it was officially my birthday, but the embarrassment of being the last customer standing as they flipped the stools and wiped down the bar was enough to make me leave prematurely. In truth, I was relieved to not have to hold everything in anymore. I released the sadness, letting it flow down my face and sprinkle onto my dress and jacket, feeling an occasional drop on my sandaled foot as I walked home, shamed, crushed, with nothing to go home to, and nothing more to look forward to. This was going to be my birthday celebration. If this had failed me so miserably, what could possibly be the point of even waking up on my birthday?
As I walked home the familiar path, I glanced over to the side street where my missing date lives, looking for some sign of disturbance or tragedy or foul play, but the night was empty and quiet, a placid, black sea, rippling only as I trudged through, the ripples disappearing as quickly and as gently as they were created.
I couldn't help asking why, as I sobbed in the mirror while trying to brush my teeth before bed, and as I woke up crying. I agonized over it for days, wondering if he'd gotten hit by a car, fallen off the wagon, or, I don't know, died? But the curiosity and the desire to dwell on it faded after a week. I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I didn't wake up crying.
And then he called and left a message.
The content of the message itself is as befuddling as being stood up for my birthday dinner, perhaps because of his low tone, or slightly garbled quality. Here's what I think it said:
"That was very efficient. I'm sorry I wasn't as efficient, but it was very serious. So, if I have to apologize, I'll apologize. I hope I bump into you again. No malice.......All love."I'm sure he was responding to the very business-like outgoing message on my voicemail, a necessity as a freelancer, but what a flippant way to start an apology message. Does he have to apologize? Yes. Even though we don't know each other well and haven't spent very much time together, and even if his standing me up wasn't a malicious attempt at destroying my birthday, he did a very bad thing by luring me into a date that never happened, leaving me stranded, pretending to come to my rescue and instead making the whole damn thing ever so much worse. He should've just left me alone. He should've let me decline his invitation altogether.
And, in the absence of all that, in the case that his hands were burned off or his apartment burned down or he lost the ability to speak, amnesiac, insomniac, abducted by aliens, he could've waited less than a week to explain himself. And he could've actually explained himself properly.
At this point, hearing his message feels like picking at the scab on my heart. I want him to leave me alone. I want to either heal, or break altogether.
I want to be put out of my misery, not to be reminded of it.
My First Birthday Alone in LA
Excuses, Excuses Part 2