For most people, lunch was this highly anticipated part of the day where they were free to slip away from work and everything that was expected of them. Whether they chose to spend this time alone, with friends or random co-workers, they were free to enjoy themselves — free to just… exist. On a normal day, I too would consider myself one of these people, eager to get as far away from my designated workspace as possible, but with Cassandra on the other side of town renegotiating her living allowance, it was just me with my unsupervised thoughts — two entities that I knew better than to allow within 100 feet of each other — especially when I’m this tired and even more so when I’m this hungry.
I closed my eyes and launched a mental map of all of the nearby eating establishments, trying to gather options to satisfy my growling belly while also respecting the limitations of my tightly restricted budget. From what I remembered, there were five places located within walking distance. The first, a noodle place was more on the fine dining side. Every meal, according to their website, came with these pretty, custom-designed chopsticks that you get to take home with you. Dishes for sure would run close to $30 a bowl. Then there was this sandwich shoppe that was way more casual. They specialized in crafting the most creative — most over-the-top sandwiches — and their skill level was evident in their menu prices. The others were… no longer important because the view through the glass doors across from me granted a glimpse of a group of lunch-goers that were headed in my direction.
The one in front, guiding the crew through the lobby, was someone I didn’t expect to see again, not so soon anyway — and definitely not while I was loitering in front of the building like some loser with no lunch plans.
I yanked my phone from my pocket and sent my fingers to work on a text I had no intention of sending. The goal was to keep my eyes down and remain unseen long enough for him to walk past and me, fade into the crowd, but I must’ve miscalculated or something because when I looked up, my eyes made full contact with his.
I dropped my head again, hoping he would just continue on and pretend like he didn’t see me, like I was planning to do to him, but he didn’t. Instead, he tapped the person next to him and after a quick word, they parted ways — with the group moving forward and him, backwards, right back down the path they had just walked.
Room 3 was on his way over to me!
Why is he coming over here? Doesn’t he have plans?? What does he want with me???
My phone found its way back into my pocket and my arms wrapped themselves around my body as I pondered that question. It’s lunchtime and he just bailed on his friends. I’m standing here, clearly alone, and now he’s on his way over here to do what? My hands clenched the sides of my sweater — my grip growing tighter with each step he took towards me. Find a new lunch… date… He was going to ask me to lunch… and I… was going to have to turn him down. The dwindling balance in my checking account wouldn’t allow otherwise.
It was probably for the best anyway, seeing as the last lunch offer I accepted from a guy — turned into a three-year relationship that ended in a breakup I was still recovering from.
I tried to think of something to keep him from coming over, something that would stop him before he could ask what I knew he was going to ask but it was too late because he was here.
“We meet again,” he smiled.
“We do…” I smiled back, my grip reaching its full capacity.
He looked around us like he was expecting someone to walk up. “I hope whoever you’re waiting for has your jacket,” he tapped one of my tightly folded arms, “You look cold.”
“I’m not,” I quickly dropped my hands, trying to disguise the uneasiness that I had no idea was so visible, “I’m not cold.”
“But you are waiting for someone, right?”
This was it! My way out! If I said yes, it would imply that I have a date or whatever and prevent an awkward moment from going down between us.
“Yeah— I mean, no, I’m not—” I inched towards the building, “I’m going back inside though.”
“You sure? There’s this burrito place not too far from here. They have this buy one get one free burrito thing.”
I paused. Did he say buy one get one free?
“Better than the vending machines in there,” he teased.
Now that was an exception my budget was willing to consider!
“Burritos?” I spun around.
“Good burritos,” he nodded.
Okay, I know what I said but I was going for the burritos. Just for the burritos.