Monday, February 18, 2013

Slice of My Life: Sometimes I Change the Ending

I was working on a different post last week, something light and full of fluff. Heavily featured reality television and a wheel of cheese. And then I went out with my family for Valentine's Day--Thai place, delicious little hole in the wall that was packed and takes reservations. It had been a busy day, as is usual for a weekday in our house. We felt rushed to squeeze in dinner, so by the time we got to the restaurant, we were hungry, tired and a little grumpy, already thinking about what we had to take care of as soon as we got home—so we were distracted, too. But when we walked in I perked up at the sight of the gigantic bouquet of roses at the head table in the restaurant. You know the table—the one at the very front facing the rest of the place, the only one with the white cloth amongst red-clad ones. It's a special table, and there was an older gentleman sitting there, late sixties maybe. He seemed nervous, tapping his water glass, moving it across the table centimeter by centimeter and then shifting it back. He checked his watch constantly, eyeing the door as if it didn't matter but we all knew it did.

As we sat down in the table just a few feet in front of him, Hubs said something like, “looks like someone's about to get some beautiful flowers,” and I smiled and felt kind of relaxed for the first time that day. Beautiful flowers, indeed. Happiness. But after a few minutes, the man at the head table was still by himself. He hadn't ordered any food, just slowly sipped from his water glass, tapping the stem, eyes on his watch, door, palms of his hands. We got our drinks, ordered our food, exchanged a bit of banter, and then I found myself growing restless. A bit anxious, really. The man was still alone.

One glance around the restaurant and I noticed all the eyes surreptitiously glancing his way. A few leaned across tables to whisper to their partners, and my heart sank. The man could see us seeing him and his giant flowers, of course he could. We all watched the door, watched him, and he saw it all, wringing his hands. I started wanting so much for someone to walk in and spot the man and wave. Maybe she would clutch her scarf, tilt her head a bit and smile so big, but biting her lip a little—she'd be so embarrassed, see. Maybe her dog had taken forever to pee, and then she decided to change her shoes one last time and swapped them out several times before settling on the sweet little beige heels with the ribbon ties at the ankles, and then maybe she had to change her coat to match, but she couldn't find that beige coat with the pointed lapels and brown ribbon ties instead of buttons, and when she finally found it buried deep in her closet she couldn't find her keys. Maybe it took her a half hour to realize she left them outside when she took the dog out. So by the time she would walk into the restaurant, she'd be a little out of breath, but so relieved to see him there, waiting for her, and her eyes would widen at the sight of the massive bouquet, and he would stand and hold his hand to his chest, so relieved she came and she's well and not in an accident because she never called. Why didn't she call?

There was an obnoxious woman sitting in the table on the other side of us. She was very loud, and her voice was grating—the kind of voice that gets louder just so everyone can hear her because she's oh-so-funny and charming. And oh my god I wanted to strike her when she stood in a showy flurry and grabbed the water jug at the server's table next to the kitchen, making such a big deal of having waited for a drink. Not only did she pour water for everyone at her own table, she went around pouring water for every table as if she were cute instead of ridiculous and then she approached the man with the flowers. The man, who at this point was doing his best to just disappear. He got all flustered and waved the woman away with an embarrassed “no, please,” and she insisted so loud, “Are you sure? It's no bother. I can give you water, letmegiveyouwater.” “Please, no.” Just go was written all over his face, and my heart sank all the more. Leave him alone, you stupid woman. I hurt for him. I wanted so much for someone to walk in, and all he had was this loud woman, so, so present and attention-calling and just go away.

After our dinner was served, the man reached into the jacket he'd never taken off and pulled his keys out. He backed his chair up slowly, glancing at the door. After a few very slow seconds, he unfolded himself, an accordion stretching, broken without music. And then he shuffled out, his head hanging, eyes on his feet, past our table, past the loud woman's table, past every table to the door. And then he was gone.

The loud woman called a server over and asked her, so loud, “Did that man leave those flowers for you? Or are they there for something else? Are they yours?” The server got all flustered and mumbled an answer no one heard and made a hasty exit towards the kitchen.

Hubs and I exchanged embarrassed smiles, maybe worried glances. "Do you think the flowers were his?" I whispered. "I don't know," he said. We both looked at the beautiful, massive bouquet left behind. “The Pad Thai is so good,” I said after a while. “You said that already,” my daughter mumbled, kind of distracted. It's true, I'd said that. But everyone agreed the Pad Thai was really good, because it was and it was Valentine's Day and the man with the flowers was gone and what did that have to do with anything?

Except all night I thought about that man. And the next day and the next. Was it a blind date? Or someone he'd known in another life and now they were both divorced, or widowed, and finally moving on, though a little scared. Was it a daughter he'd never met before? Or a reunion with a best friend or former lover he hadn't talked to in years? Or a secret liaison, one he'd changed his mind on a thousand times.

Today I decided that the person who never showed had been in the hospital with an acute attack of the Noro Virus, and she called him as soon as she got home. They have a new date scheduled for this Saturday. He will bring her flowers again and she will wear her beige heels with the ribbon ties at the ankles. When people look at him, he will know they see his happiness and nothing more, and everything will be beautiful.

35 comments:

  1. Oh, that poor man. How sad. But thanks for rewriting the ending.

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    1. You're welcome! I've never much cared for sad endings. <3

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  2. I have missed your commentaries on life...The man's story reminded me of a few great love stories - and I LOVE your revised ending

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    1. Thank you, Christine <3 I like my new ending too! LOL So glad to see you.

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  3. I'm all tied up in knots reading this. I will never understand people like the loud woman who has zero empathy it would seem. But you have done a beautiful thing in finding a new ending.

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    1. I was really bothered by her that night, although I'm sure my perception of her was tainted by my anxiety over that man. Maybe this was her way of trying to make him feel better, her own way of showing him he wasn't alone? I don't know. Sometimes it's hard to know how to act (or to know that you shouldn't act). But in my head, at the time, it seemed to exacerbate the situation, and I wanted her to just sit down. I do hope the man had a better ending than the one we saw.

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  4. From your lips to God's ears.....and that the disappointed man lives your ending to his story. Disappointment is hard - very hard - at any age; but moreso as we get older. I think because we know we have less time to rewrite our stories. Bless you for rewriting his. Somehow I think that when our hearts are truly compassionate for others it does somehow flow over to them.

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    1. Thank you <3 Although I think that new ending is in part a selfish motive. It was just nagging at me so much, the wondering and worrying and not knowing. I guess I had to imagine the best possible ending, for my sake too. I do it with books/movies that have endings that bother me, too. I imagine the ending that makes me feel better. Maybe that's just human nature. But I truly hope it's the ending he got.

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  5. Man, my heart hurts for that guy. I'm trusting your ending.

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  6. Me too, Barbara. I was so sad for him. We talked about it afterwards, coming up with every possible scenario. I just couldn't stop thinking about it. Finally, I think I had to imagine the best possible ending for him just to stop feeling sad for him.

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  7. I sincerely hope you are right! Or maybe she went to the wrong restaurant?

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    1. Oh, now there's one I hadn't thought of! MAYBE YES!! That would be lovely. And maybe he didn't have a cell phone? Or forgot it at home? Hmm, the possibilities!

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  8. Hello lovely Carolina!! Look at you and your new shiny sparkly blog! Yay!

    Awww I'm hoping too that maybe the person this poor man was waiting for was perhaps delayed by something mega too!! Awwww!

    Take care
    x

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    1. Me too, my dear. Such disappointment, and on Valentine's day. :(

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  9. Gosh, that was striking. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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    1. You're welcome! So nice to have you stop by :D

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  10. You are always so observant. I like your rewriting at the end and so hope it's true.

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    1. Thank you, Natalie! That's very kind. I hope it's true too <3

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    1. Me too, Liza! Whatever the case, I hope it ended well.

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  12. Ohmygosh - my heart is BREAKING for that man. Yes, let's go with your story. And in your story, can the obnoxious woman get a month-long case of laryngitis?

    Also, you are a beautiful and talented writer!

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  13. Thank you, Alison. That's very kind! You made my day <3

    And yes, laryngitis would be fitting for her. LOL

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  14. Aww! How totally sad. And i agree. Your ending makes me much happier

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    1. It makes me happier too! LOL So good to see you, Sarah. Are you doing WisCon this year?

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  15. Awww, you made me tear up. :(

    I was at a writer's conference a couple years ago and there was a class reunion going on. The people were in their mid to late 60's. I went to the hotel restaurant for dinner and there was a man wearing what looked like a high school jacket. He looked lonely and kind of sad, so i struck up a conversation. Turned out he was there for a college football game the next day and he was a Congressman from from Kansas. He was just having dinner, which made me feel so much better. Maybe your gentleman was just having dinner too. :) Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Aw, I hope so, Sharon! Thank you for sharing that. It does make me more hopeful for him. I think the flowers were throwing me off, though. They were just so big and beautiful, and I could imagine how lovely it would be to receive something like that. But maybe they belonged to the restaurant? I don't know. I've probably thought to much about this. LOL

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  16. The whole time I was reading that, I was thinking, "She's such a writer!" First to be playing "what-if" in the first place, and then you added so much detail, right down to the shoes with the ankle ribbons. I know that wasn't the point of your story, but still. I hope the man had a message waiting for him when he got home.

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    1. That's very kind, Susan! I really appreciate you saying that. And I hope so too!

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  17. I love your imagined fantasy for him...
    and so wish it were true.

    It would've helped me immensely if I'd been able to concoct such a detailed story for the person I saw one day at Disneyland. By himself.

    We followed him around for a while (out of self-torture, curiosity, concern?) and he never did meet up with anyone.

    I suppose it wouldn't surprise you then to know I had a hard time enjoying myself that day.

    And still remember him.

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    1. It doesn't surprise me at all, Julie. You're a compassionate person with a tremendous ability to empathize. Thank you for sharing that story with me. How sad to be alone at Disney World. With any luck, that man was fulfilling a dream to go there, even if he had to do it alone.

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  18. I'm sending him up to the top of the Empire State Building with sugary snow falling and the love of his life waiting. Thank you for sharing his story and making it come out right.

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    1. Oh I love your idea, Leslie! What a great way to end a story :D

      Thank you so much for coming by and reading!

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  20. That's so heartbreaking! I'm feeling for that guy too, but I hope that woman didn't call. Or if she did then I hope he told her to stuff it and found another lady who wouldn't treat him like that. It's just so cruel. I can understand being late (God knows I'm always late!) but a quick phone call or text to say so doesn't hurt. At least he wouldn't have been wondering, and then disappointed. Poor guy.

    Jai

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    1. So sorry it's taken me so long to respond, Jai!! I saw your other comment, too. But between travel and looking for a new job and lugging myself through all the end of the school year activities, I've hardly had a chance to breathe! I hope you aren't too cross with me. Thank you so much for your comment! I still think of that guy sometimes and hope all worked out for him!

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