Martin twiddled his fingers, eying the clock nervously as the minutes went by. The waiting room was a desolate spot, the beige walls and eerily quiet businessmen leaving nothing to distract him from his hyperactive mind. It’s been too long- will something have changed? He had nearly fallen over when she requested him on Facebook, with an eager message about how they needed to catch up over a coffee. Despite the fact that they hadn’t been in contact for nearly ten years, or the fact that she directed him to her assistant when planning a time to meet, or that he was the 58th caller in line, he couldn’t help but feel an excitement; only worsened by the scenes replaying in his mind over and over until the images were burned into his vision. In his mind, they were still swiping cotton candy from the Old Market sweet-shop and watching it melt on their tongues leaving nothing but a brilliant stain of red and climbing to the tops of the white pine trees late at night reaching for the stars as if they were in their grasp, and doing everything else that meant nothing at the moment. He knew her mind was probably filled with other, more important information than his fraying memories, but he couldn’t help but reminisce on a past long gone. He didn’t realize that a young lady had approached him, an apologetic smile plastered on her face. As she spoke, he recognized the voice from the phone.
“Hello Mr. Rodriguez, I sincerely apologize, but Ms. Benton has a meeting running late. She won’t be out for an hour or so.” Just like that, the vision he had spun in his head melted. Her assistant continued to speak, but Martin was only half listening. His mind conjured more scenes; the sugary bliss on her face the day she sprinted out of her house with hair falling out of her loose braids and her oversized t-shirt splattered with tears telling him that she had gotten into Yale with a full scholarship, all of her hard work to escape the life her family led finally paying off, or the last day of school when they made an oath to stay in touch no matter what happened in the future, or the emails and phone calls that never received a response for an entire decade leaving the sweetness he had held for her to rot into a sick bitterness, or everything else that meant everything to him but nothing to her. “Would you like me to reschedule?” he heard her assistant say, clearly having repeated it multiple times. He collected his thoughts, attempting to piece together what little sanity he had left.
“I’m fine with waiting,” he responded airily, pushing the tones of hurt from his voice. He watched as she gave him an uncertain nod, walking back to her desk. This isn’t a big deal, he told himself, trying to think rationally. She wasn’t forgetting about him, she was just running late on something that wasn’t in her control. This isn’t her fault. If he knew this was true, why did his mind betray him once more, unwilling to accept the most reasonable conclusion? You have dreamt of this moment for years upon years, said a bitter voice in the corner of his mind, and she can’t even bother to show up on time?
His eyes drifted from the clock to the door to his phone, which he unlocked and locked and unlocked again. He settled on the news, distracting himself until the sting started to subside. Someone shuffled in, and he looked up past the gray carpet like there was any chance it would be her. It wasn’t her—it wasn’t going to be her, not after she left him waiting when he had come here to make it convenient, taken time out of his day, and she had redirected him to his assistant like scheduling wasn’t even important enough for her. That’s why it’s different, he thought, that’s why it won’t work. He unlocked his phone again, scrolling past headlines like he was in the headspace to read them. As the door opened once more, he didn’t bother to look up again.
“Is there a Martin Rodriguez here?” he heard a timid yet soothingly familiar voice say from the corner of the room. His heart leapt as he looked up and saw her —one stick of cotton candy in each hand, perfectly reminiscent of the ones they had all those years ago.
Her eyes searched the room, and his eyes remained on her. She was here, and this could work. Maybe she’s worth the trouble, he thought, powering off his phone as she found his eyes. She raised her eyebrows and made her way to him.
“I know we said coffee but this seemed more fun,” she said, attempting to read his expression. She drummed her fingers against the edge of a stick, as if to ask, what do you want to do? Well, she was here, despite her schedule, holding a glimpse of their past in each hand. He would be lying to himself if he thought anything else mattered.
He grabbed a stick, taking a bite out of it and letting it melt on his tongue, to the disgust of the other businessmen and women in the waiting room. It tasted sweet and rich like everything he left in the years past—everything that could become in the future.