I left the bathroom and scanned the faces a second time walking toward the back of the restaurant. The older I get, it seems, the more socially anxious I become and my friend (date? not clear on that) still hadn’t shown.
“Looking for someone?” The question came from a dark-haired guy (I am 24 and uncomfortable calling people I meet “men”) to my right.
“Yeah, I am,” I replied.
I smiled with relief.
“Well let’s look for them together so we don’t feel awkward and lonely.”
It only took a minute for him to admit his date probably stood him up, and for me to acknowledge I didn’t know when mine would arrive.
“I’m Matt,” he said, shaking my hand.
We grabbed a seat and small talked our way into his Jewish heritage, which he had previously denounced and even changed his name from “Moshe”. The girl, he said, was someone he met through online dating and ran into in a restaurant the same week.
“Serendipity, they call it.” We toasted fate and chance and speculated about the girl he wanted to meet, the boy I was waiting for, the boldness of following a dream…… why she didn’t call.
I took advantage of the time I had left to wait and ordered two plates and a pile of sweet potato chocolate chip pancakes that tasted like heaven under a bed of whipped cream and syrup. We split them down the middle and I kept glancing at the door, my heart nose-diving each time a head of sandy blonde hair dipped in.
I grinned sheepishly, “Sorry, I’m not trying to be rude. It’s just he’s a health nut…”
My new friend grinned knowingly and placed my plate, clean but for two bites, on his left so that it wouldn’t look like it was me that cleared it.
“That’s him,” I said. He looked in my direction but didn’t walk over.
Moshe, or Matt, and I hugged and said our see you soons, and I made one more stop by the bathroom on my way to the table.
Staring in the dimly lit mirror, I tried not to see myself as Matt must have seen me. My hair, long and untamed, brushed the center of my back and parted down the middle the way I imagined 70s beauty queens must have done. My skin, though normally pale was almost tan in this bathroom’s half light, and I recognized in my eyes that I felt beautiful. I wondered if he saw the same girl staring back at me. Did he ask himself the question I posed to myself in that mirror?
Why was this girl-this beautifully awkward, confident girl-left waiting?