It was dusk and getting colder now as the sun was turning off. The city lights were shining and the night was moving in, slowly coming alive. All around her the streets were picking up with traffic, footsteps, and noise: honking, stopping, parking, waving, talking. She sat on the third row of steps in the Plaza and watched. Just waiting.
A few yards away a group of high-schoolers were all in a circle and had a bottle of whiskey, a bottle of cheap red wine, and a liter of coca cola. They were laughing, drinking, shouting, all very happily and seemed to be having a very good time.
Looking at her phone, she pulled out a pack of Marlboro cigarettes and quickly lit one. Holding it high and away from her face, with her elbow tucked down low, she looked wonderful and easily like a model from one of the fashion magazines from Rome or Milan.
Soon nearly an hour had passed and still there was no sign of him. They had a date. It was all planned. They were to meet at the Plaza at 8pm and then go off for a drink before dinner. That was what he had said wasn’t it? She replayed their conversation over and over in her head and looked through her phone for clues in the messages they had sent back and forth.
She: “Hi boy what r you doin’ today?”
He: “I have to return all my books but after nothin really. Maybe play ball with Cristian…u?”
She: “Going shopping w Sara and Marta! But after I don’t have plans. We should go out for drinks and dinner what do u think?
He: “Great idea. Let’s meet in the Plaza at 7:30 and get a drink”.
She: “Oh perfect. I’ll meet u there and it’ll be sooo much fun.”
He: “Of course. See you later.”
As she flipped through these over and over she tried to hear his voice but couldn’t. The noise from the Plaza was too great. Everyone was laughing and joking and it was a shame she thought, because it was a brilliant night. The sun had officially retired and the sky was dark blue like the ocean and the stars were a color brighter than white.
Time to Leave
He was packed into the rock bar near his house. Back in the corner and having a conversation he had no interest in. His two friends were shouting back and forth across him, arguing whose girlfriend had slept with more guys. Pointless he thought to himself as tried to finish his strong drink and leave. He had already checked the time and he knew he was late but he wasn’t going to take a taxi. With this traffic it will take just as long if not longer he thought, he paid for his drink and started to walk quickly towards the main street. He crossed and now headed down towards the bus station walking with long strides and smoking a cigarette. He stood by the sign and waited for the bus. He was getting worried now – he was an hour late and knew she wouldn’t wait for much longer.
The bus arrived as he was staring at his phone as if he had never seen one before. The time read 20:33 (8:33pm) and he was thankful it was such a short distance to the plaza. Three girls with dark coffee color skin bounced out the bus doors and walked right by him and in passing, the last turned just enough for their eyes to connect for a moment.
He looked out the window as the bus lurched down the city streets, pressing his forehead against the glass felt good – the cold, damp sensation of the window pressing hard back against him. The bus was only two blocks from the plaza now and he decided to get out and walk the rest. Moving with force, weaving through the crowds and passing the busy markets and stores. Now he was 200 yards from the entrance to the plaza. He could see the street performers: men doused in silver spray paint to look like metal, another in scary makeup, and one dressed as Darth Vader, all packing up their things and shuffling home.
Waiting at the crosswalk for the traffic to break he was feeling something he almost never felt – nerves. He had that light churning sensation in his stomach and tingles in his hands. And he knew why, he was excited to see her. He hoped she looked good. But then he knew that she would, that she did.
A crowd of tourists snuck up behind him and were noisily laughing and shoving all in a large group behind him at the edge of sidewalk. He could hear they were loud with alcohol, and he could feel them on the back of his neck. Stomping out his cigarette he had had enough, stepping out from the side of the road he took three small steps. He sensed he had moved too quickly and could feel the rush of the traffic, but he didn’t have time to look at what was coming.
When the road had been cleared, three police cars were parked across the street and blocking traffic. The group of tourists continued to stare in disbelief, one in the group had seen enough and tugged at the others to retreat. The flashing blue lights of the police cars caught everyone’s attention but no one really looked as they ducked and hurried past and went on with their evening as if they had not seen anything at all.
No More Time
She had gone from nervous and scared that he was not going to show, too angry, and back again. He was not going to come, she thought and her face sunk. The plaza was filled with the bright white lights of the bordering buildings, the fountain in the center with gushing water and soft green lights at the bottom made each persons face seem to glow. They were all happy: laughing, drinking, talking, kissing, shoving. And it was time to leave. She picked up her purse and stood up from the steps, peering across the top of the crowd, scanning back and forth one final time. She did not see him so she put her bag across her arm, put her head down, and walked slowly home.
As she lay in her bed confused, angry, and cold she sent a final message to him, “What happened…you never showed up?”
She never got a response.