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Wednesday couldn’t come soon enough. After a very solid weekend of doing nothing other than playing some video games and spending all of Sunday watching football at his friend Ben’s house, he was worried that Monday and Tuesday would drag due to his nervous anticipation for this date. Luckily, his boss dropped a huge client file for him to review first thing Monday morning, with a presentation to the client two days later. Although he groaned internally that he was losing a laid-back Monday morning to transition from weekend sloth to the work routine, he appreciated the distraction.
It was a new client that he was being asked to work-up a presentation on his own. He’d done client presentations before but never solo for a new buyer. It was nerve-wracking, for sure, but also kept all his nervous energy focused away from his upcoming date.
Wednesday morning was the closest he felt to mid-week scaries in his life. From the moment his alarm started wailing, his heart was beating through his ribcage. Shower, shave, toothbrush, hairbrush, style. His normal morning routine was a slight relief, and he did admit that he was looking sharp in his Ralph Lauren sweater/button-down with chinos and wingtips combination. Looking at himself in the mirror, he saw himself give a rare, unprompted smile at how dapper he looked.
The presentation went without a hitch. Buoyed by his swelling pride at how he looked, his voice was clear and confident as he explained where the clients stood to gain significant value through his firm’s services. After 45 minutes, which felt like a mere five, it was handshakes and smiles all around. His boss, a former college baseball player with an infectious energy, even slapped him on the back and gave him an honest-to-god “attaboy.”
So when he went back to his office, he was riding high. Sure it was only 11 a.m., but he reasoned that he could ride off the feeling of satisfaction for a while as he finished up the next steps the clients touched on during the presentation. He felt unstoppable, positively giddy as he plopped into his desk chair, motivated to have a productive day before his long-awaited date that evening.
It was nearly 4 p.m. before he hit a lull in the action, right after his mid-afternoon work deuce, and had an opportunity to check his phone. No notifications of any real importance, other than a couple intriguing matches from Hinge he would half-heartedly check later.
He flipped to their conversation and began typing. “Hey, just wanted to make sure you’re still down for Mad Hatter at 6:30 tonight.”
When he set the phone down and got back to work, he barely thought of it again. He was in the zone today, feeling a grove of productivity and confidence. Nothing was going to stop his mojo. Or so he thought.
After about ten minutes, he felt the rumble of his cell phone next to him. Still confident, he opened the lock screen and felt the blood rush from his face when he saw the message preview.
“Hi there! I’m so sorry but I’m kind of feeling under the weather today. I didn’t want to say anything because I was hoping I’d be feeling better by this afternoon, but I think I’m gonna have to cancel.”
FUCK, he thought. It was a classic blow-off move, one he’d seen a thousand times. He took a deep breath, knowing he couldn’t freak out. If he still had any shot at all, he had to stay cool and go along with her charade.
“Oh no, I’m so sorry! Don’t worry about tonight, just feel better and let me know if you’re free next week or something!”
“Thanks so much for understanding *doctor emoji*”
After carefully setting the phone on his desk, he leaned back in his chair and angrily mimed punching the air. Whatever momentum his huge win at work on Wednesday morning was soundly derailed by that evening. Instead of drinks and flirtatious laughter with a woman he very much fancied, he spent Wednesday night glancing at his phone, talking himself out of texting her again.
By Thursday morning, he resorted to flipping to her Facebook page or Instagram once an hour to see if she was, in fact, actually sick. He wanted to text her so badly, but he knew it was unwise. After getting blown off like that, he needed to wait two days, minimum before re-initiating contact. So he tried to use work, once again, to distract him. But that pit-in-your-stomach feeling, like one gets right before Jason Voorhees jumps out to kill a teenager in the movie, kept his focus wavering and his work slowed to a crawl.
It was Friday evening, however, that truly brought him down. While most of his mid-to-late 20s peers were spending the evening riding the wave from happy hour into late-night of crazy fun, he spent the evening inside. He told himself that he was working, but he spent more time staring at his phone than the code he was debugging. On the third attempt to assuage his anxiety by checking social media, he found it. On Bethany’s Instagram, there was a photo of a group of girls, geo-tagged at a bar on U-Street, about ten minutes earlier. Right at the front, he saw that familiar ginger hair and snarky smile, seemingly taunting him.
Anxiety turned to despair turned to anger. He wanted to call her out. To text her that he knew where she was. To comment “@sunfloweremoji looks like you got better #liar” on Bethany’s photo. In his fantasy, he’d revel in the sympathy he’d get from other commenters. The other girls at the happy hour would shame her, say that they were leaving that skank, and would come over with a bottle of wine to show him the kind of affection he deserved.
But he knew it wouldn’t turn out that way. Instead, he would end up being scolded and mocked for his naked desperation. He’d be fodder for ridicule at the table, labeled a “Nice Guy” even though she was the one who lied to him. Instead of lashing out, he took the passive-aggressive approach.
“Hey there, hope you’re feeling better! Let me know when you want to reschedule.”
He pressed the send button on the text at 8:11 p.m. A “read” notification appeared below it at 8:13 p.m. For the next few hours, until he finally coaxed his brain to quiet itself and drift into sleep, he anxiously awaited the appearance of those three ellipses and subsequent reply. They never came.
Saturday and Sunday were hell. He tried everything he could imagine to stay busy. He cleaned his house, got all his laundry washed and pressed, ran to the store to complete his grocery shopping, and cleaned out his computer. He spent his Saturday night hanging out with his younger brother Chris, watching hockey and drinking lagers, and his Sunday crashed at his buddy Ryan’s house, scarfing down junk food and watching football. He even started chatting up his two Hinge matches, and a Bumble match that came through Saturday night. None of it worked. Nothing stopped his mind from drifting back to her face. No matter how well it was going with the girl from Hinge, he kept flipping back to her Facebook, to Instagram, searching for some answer to his questions.
Monday morning was unbearable. The code he’d worked on over the weekend was running into issues that he couldn’t solve. On top of all that, the clients were asking for some unique specifications that would double his workload on the project. It was hours of calls to the client, then discussions with his boss about adjusting their timeline before he got a break for a late lunch around 2 p.m.
He didn’t have time to leave and get something substantial, so he was forced to get a meager sandwich and chips from the shop downstairs. While he waited, he flipped open his phone to Twitter, knowing he likely wouldn’t have another chance to check on any updates to the status of next season of House of Cards before quitting time. As he pulled up the lock screen, he saw a bunch of notifications. Second from the top was a new message from her.
He looked away before he could read any of the message preview and took a few deep breaths. He almost couldn’t bear to read what he was 90% sure was some apology and means of letting him down gently. It was a nice, rare gesture, girls not leaving the unanswered texts out there and trying to let a guy down easily, but he’d gone through it too many times. It still stung. And it especially stung coming from her.
Finally, curiosity overtook him and he slid open the text message.
“Hey I’m so sorry. I know it was super weird of me to bail on you at the last minute. I feel extremely bad about it, but if you’re free tonight I’d love to make it up to you. Same time, same place works for me, but I understand if you can’t or don’t want to.” .