Sometimes, I think it's better when these guys just disappear completely.
Last night, I saw The Man Who Stood Me Up.
I didn't look at him, but I saw him.
I was in the place where we met. I'd avoided it to avoid him, he a regular, in one of the few places I felt was mine. But by standing me up, he made the place his. By going there, I was entering his territory.
Everything between us - as little as there had been - had already been on his terms. That is, everything since the first time he paid for my meal at the bar. I owed him something then, maybe just a portion of my time. Now, after standing me up and waiting a week to apologize (poorly), he owed me more than an apology.
He staggered into the corner of my eye, his white hair in stark contrast to his dark suit. He was unmistakable, even in the periphery, and so I cast my gaze anywhere but there. I chatted up the lonely, nervous man to my right. I leant my ear to the blowhard on my left. I made eyes at the handsome, gregarious man to his left. I batted my lashes at the bartender.
I tried very hard to look like I was having a good time.
I sipped my first bourbon of the week, which unsettlingly settled my stomach, as I noticed The Man Who Stood Me Up uncomfortably leaning on the bar, letting it hold his weight as he talked to the man to his left. I had the feeling he'd been looking at me, but I refused to meet his gaze. I tried to see if he had a drink in front of him, still wondering if he'd fallen off the wagon and if I could blame his absence on a bender.
But I didn't want to think about him. I wanted to focus on somebody else who would surely stand me up one day, but for now, was a blank canvas, offered me a clean slate, with me stood on common ground.
Although I'd received another message from The Man Who Stood Me Up earlier this week - ironically the only man to call me in weeks - he didn't bother to approach me. Although I didn't want to actually speak with him or hear his voice, I did want him to beg for forgiveness, even though, to me, he did the unforgivable.
It doesn't hurt to see him. I barely know him. I let a stranger hurt me on an important day, and now he'll never be anything more to me than just a stranger, another forgotten encounter.
It's funny: when I'd agreed to go out with him, he more than 20 years my senior, I thought to myself, "Is this where I'm at now? Dating 60 year olds? Is that the best I can do?"
And then when he stood me up, I realized that life couldn't even meet my lowest expectations, of others, and of myself.
If the best that I can do is less than this guy, then I'll do nothing.
If I can't win, I'd rather not play.
The Love I Deserve
Another Excuse, A Week Too Late