I want to ride home with him. At this moment, I want to buy a case of the cheapest alcohol I can find, ride home with Max, get drunk, and let the night disappear into his grin. I am about to say this when I hear a car pull up and turn to see your driver opening your door. You are running before your feet hit the sidewalk but you don’t see me as you head for the diner. You probably think that I am still waiting for you. I realize there is some truth to that.
I see your mouth forming my name. F-i-o-n-a. I don’t hear you say it. I know you are not worried about me as much as what you think I’ve said to your wife. I want you to sweat this out. I want you to feel bad. Your ring is burning on my finger.
Feeling brave I grab Max’s sleeve as he stomps out his cigarette and turns to go inside and call my cab. His sleeve is warm. He turns to me. His face picks up the very last ounce of real light from the horizon.
“Wait…um, yes. Let’s go right now. I’ll give you gas money.” The words come out so fast it is all like one big long word. I say it with one breath so that I can’t take it back.
But Max is not stupid. He has seen the car, you, and the look in my eyes. He has seen my face change. I know all of this and am begging for mercy in my head. I can’t look at his face. I can’t see that grin go away.
“But isn’t that who…you were…are waiting for?”
I am looking at your car; the driver sees me and waves me over. I look away. My head is pounding again and Max hands me a crumpled up napkin from his pocket. I don’t realize that I am crying.
“Yeah. I guess I should…go.”
“If you want to.”
“I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s okay, happens all the time.” Max grins at me and pats me on the shoulder. The grin doesn’t go all the way to his eyes this time. I realize this is the first time he has actually touched me.
“Yeah, right…I’m sure. Everyday Max, everyday.” I force a smile but not with much conviction.
You are running back to the car. The driver is pointing over to me. I feel like I am being busted for something illegal. My heart is pounding in time with my head. The tears have stopped.
Max tosses me the cigarettes and the matches.
“Hey, Fiona, good luck. At least you found a great place to get some fantastic coffee.”
“Get outta here Max.” I look at him. He is looking at the ground. “It was nice to meet you too.”
You finally reach me. You are reaching out to me, hugging me, possessing me.
“I’m so sorry, I knew it was you on the phone. I feel just awful. I was working on my closing and completely lost track…”
I let your voice trail off, allow you to put your arm around me to lead me in the direction of your car. Your driver already has the door open for us. He is not smiling. You are telling me about the dinner we are going to have as we walk back to the car. I pray it is some place with a bar.
I turn my head to look over your hand on my shoulder. I look back at the diner. I see Max ride off; he beeps twice and is gone. Something in my throat catches.
“Who was that?”
“Oh. What were you two talking about?”
“Nothing.” I look at you. “Nothing baby, just small talk, he gave me a cigarette. That’s all.” I give you a quick smile and shrug. It doesn’t even register to you that it wasn’t genuine.
You smile, sigh and pull me closer. I am feeling a little suffocated by your cologne but it’s oddly comforting. I look at the pack of cigarettes in my hand and put them in my pocket. The matchbook falls on the ground. I uncurl from your arm and reach down to pick them up. You keep walking. You don’t really notice I’ve stopped. There is a phone number written in black in on the cover. Max. I smile as I stick the matches in my pocket too. I don’t try to catch up with you. I’ll get there, eventually.