This month I’m doing a Creative Writing challenge! Today’s installment:
I sat back in my seat. The hard back did nothing to help my nerves, as I rested uneasily while I waited. Around me the cafe bustled, as it was at the height of the lunch hour. I glanced ahead of me, to my right. The counter was staffed by three people today, and about twenty high school students were waiting for service. Across from the counter, which housed the deli sandwiches and deserts, the grill side was even more busy. Usually staffed by two cooks, the grill was manned today by three students and their instructor. A good thirty-plus students were waiting to get their burgers and pizza. No wonder the cafeteria was so loud today.
I looked at my bag. In my haste this morning, I’d forgotten to pack the usual lunch. Not that it mattered, anyway; The butterflies in my stomach wouldn’t have permitted me to eat. Not today, not at any lunch break this week. Instead, like I did the day before, I reached over and pulled another chair out from my table. The least I could do was save one for when she arrived. I put my feet up and leaned back in my own uncomfortable seat.
I found my eyes heavy this morning. Driving in had been a bitch, I could hardly stay awake on the half-hour drive. I really needed to go to bed earlier. Otherwise I’d end up killing myself on the road.
“How would she feel about that?” I wondered. My eyelids fell as I pondered this thought. On the canvas of my eyelids, my mind painted images of her falling to her knees, weeping, when she found out that I, her one true love, had perished by driving into a stream on the way to school. The thought of her pain jolted my heart, and I felt immediately defensive of her. I would never let something like that happen to her! My mind shifted, and instead of leaving her alone in the world, I could visualize us meeting on a sidewalk. I put my arm gently around her waist, and we walked together on the school grounds. In the building ahead of us, a door opened and a very small girl burst out. The tiny backpack on her shoulders bounced as she ran toward us. I released my wife’s arm, and she bent down to scoop our daughter up in a warm embrace.
My eyes snapped open. Man, that escalated quickly. If she knew that my mind had generated that, she would definitely think I was weird. Best not to mention it.
I looked around the busy cafeteria. She wasn’t anywhere in sight yet. I let my eyes close again, clearing the canvas. I now could imagine the two of us as a young couple, going places together, exploring beaches and forests, visiting concerts, seeing movies… I imagined us sitting down and talking all the time about our feelings, and how we could improve each others’ lives. Images flashed before my eyes now: A date, a proposal, a wedding, a child, a family, retirement. I could see our entire lives ahead.
If only she could see it, too.
I opened my eyes. The queasy feeling in my stomach had subsided a little, for which I was grateful. Then, I looked up toward the door, and I saw her walk in. The queasiness returned twofold. I saw her glance almost cautiously around the busy room, looking for a familiar face.I raised a palm into the air and held it for a second. She saw it, smiled, and started making her way through the crowd to me.
I took my feet off the seat and waited for her to arrive. I remembered the images my tired mind had conjured up of us starting a family together. No wonder I always felt nervous around her. So much rests on how she thinks of me.