Too late

by 7

Her Story

Too late…

The waiter asked me for the second time what else do I want to have. I told him that I don’t want nothing else and with that he straightened up, said something, smiled, and turned to leave. The look on his face tells me that he feels sorry for asking me again and that the manager is the one who pushed him to do it. Clearly, the manager wants me to try taste their newest baked specialties. And I do want. Maybe some other time.

Because today, I don’t want or need anything to partner my Espresso—it is all that I need. In fact, all I need to keep me calm and refrain from being anxious. I keep my mind focused on the people’s chatter; strained to hear what particular something they are talking about. But it’s not enough. If only I can drown myself to their noises, sink me down until he comes. Until he say my name and I’m out of the water. Out from their ships of sound and chatter.

I shift to my sit, divert my attention. And my eyes all comes down on my table, on my phone keeping lying staying there—beside the cup—the moment I sat down a few moments ago. Waiting for it to beep, to have its lights on telling me that someone has texted me. So far, there is none. He’s not yet texting or even ringing me yet. He’s not here yet. And I wait.

Wait.

Wait patiently for him to come. What is he going to tell me? I can’t even predict and I don’t want to. I can’t say if it will be good or bad. Or something worse? Pain shoots me straight down to my chest. He hasn’t shown up yet. What’s this? Some kind of a jest? Telling me he needs something to say to me and meet me up at the Jensen’s Home of Coffee and to wait for him no matter what and then what? Not show up? But no. He’s not that kind of a person. He will never do something like this on purpose. He will never do something like this even to the slightest idea that comes to mind; even the slightest tip of a knife close enough in touching your throat. More importantly not to me. I know him. He is an everything to a friend. He is everything to me.

In fact, I have planned all evening yesterday to tell him something too. I almost forgot to sleep thinking about it, thinking about him. But I finalized that I’ll rather ask him it. And I finalized that I know what his answer would be. I know him. And I guess that knowing everything about someone is a precious present. A gift wrapped in gold paper and a pretty gold ribbon atop. Is it something forbidden if I know what one will answer—what is in his mind and yet I still risk to ask it? I don’t know. But the more I think about it, the more I expect something to magically change. If only I don’t know him too well and maybe it will alter my knowing.

But I don’t want to know. I want to hear him say his answer. Hear his voice and make me believe that his yes or no or maybe is clear, crisp, right there in front of me.

I look subconsciously at my watch. 3:24. Something hit me. I have been here for only exactly 7 minutes ago. The way the waiter asked me twice and the way I think too much or even panic inside makes me think that it’s been an hour or so waiting for him. But no. Stupidity makes me taste sour inside me. He will come of course. And he almost is always late for these stuffs. What a fool am I? He just have a bit of traffic on the road, or his boss made him do more of his shift at work. Of course. Anxiety drains out inside of me. And I think I can smell his after-work scent and sun and his gentle aroma. I feel his warm and friendly built. He will come of course. He is coming. He will tell me something and I will ask him something and I want to see him and hear his—

“Emary.”

The moment I hear my name I know it. He’s here. I turn to look at him. And of course I am right. He smell just the way I know it. He feels just the way I know it. He looks just the way I know it. I know him too much. And he’s here.

“Jude,” I say, and he smiles that smile I’ve known since childhood.

I watch him sit and gesture for the waiter. He ordered just the same thing I ordered. I try not to giggle. And just that he turn to me and narrow his eyes.

“What seems to be amusing?” he teases. Of course he knows I’m fighting a good laugh deep inside. He knows me well too.

I sip the remaining of my Espresso. I straighten a bit. “Nothing. It’s nothing.”

“I see,” he says, smiling, his eyes too are smiling. Just the perfect scenery I always want to look at. “Hey, I’m sorry I’m late—”

“Again,” I finish for him.

The waiter then give him his Espresso. He thank the same waiter I refused twice moments ago for asking what else I do want. And to my surprise he didn’t ask Jude for anything else.

Jude turns to look at me. “Yes, I know. But better late than never, right?” He sips his Espresso. “It’s Sir Girdor you know. He likes me too much and I know his going to make me the best employee of the month.”

“You’re lying,” I say. “You can’t even be one of the nominees for you’re just in your part-time job routine,” I continue as I raise my eyebrows to him.

“I guess you’re right…”

“Of course I’m right,” I say. He smirks at my interruption.

Then he continues: “But I’m not lying when I say he likes me too much,” says Jude, giving an emphasis on the last two words.

I shrug. He laughs shortly. “Emary, I’m serious. He likes me. Not just because I’m a good—I mean, great worker”— I shrug at that and my shoulders are shaking with laughter—“I’m great and you know that. And he likes me Em. The way someone should not.”

I am biting my lip not to laugh. But my shoulders are giving me away. “You can’t mean that,” I say.

His eyes are bright, too beautiful to look at. “I mean it Em,” he says, and then he leans forward. “I can smell if someone’s not my own kind.”

And just that, I laugh. I can’t help it. Jude leans in his chair and crosses his arms—watching me, looking at me while I laugh, and smiling in a way that it reaches his eyes. His bright green eyes. I am still laughing, not caring what I look like to other people. What I look like to him. I am myself the best when I am with him.

I remember him years ago, at our prom. I laughed so hard when our classmate Phil joked, and though with my make-up on and dress so beautiful and elegant, and teachers kept reminding us to act like a lady for if you act like one in this kind of occasion in this kind of a night, you let your beauty shine. But I couldn’t help it. I know I am too easy to giggle and laugh even at low jokes and I knew some of my teachers were glaring at me that time, telling me to act like a lady through their eyes. But I remembered Jude then that time, I remembered what he said to me. He told me that my beauty shines the best whenever I laugh, whenever I smile, whenever I am happy. I will never forget those words.

Then, all of a sudden, I remember him now, at the present and in the moment. He’s got something to tell me. And I got something to ask him.

I let my last laugh wash over me. Keep my body steady and search my composure wherever I left it. I clear my throat and look at him, only to find his eyes looking at me too, still. He’s still smiling at me. I wonder until when I will see that smile. The one that no one has but him. That smile that he owns completely to himself, and he share it to me like he owns me completely.

I look at him. And I know he’s trying to want to say whatever he’s got for me. I find my voice first.

“What is it then?” I ask and clear my throat once more.  “Surely it’s not about your boss taking some liking on you, is it?” I joke at him.

Just then, his smile that I ever love vanished. He still smiles but it’s not the same, his eyes are sad. And I know something is up. And I think I know what this is all about.

I want to say Don’t say it. But I’m a beat too late.

“I’m leaving,” he says finally, so quiet. Two words. Just two words and I want to run.

And then two words I also say in response: “Why now?”

He leans forward as to see me more closely. To make me see him more closely. His eyes are speaking to me: Please understand Em.

“It’s dad. And his business.” He swallows and I know it’s hard for him. Harder for me. “And my mom’s health, too. And—”

“Sara,” again, I finish for him. And I divert my gaze to something else.

Of course. What a fool am I? How could I forget so suddenly about Sara? About the girl who Jude is planned to have a commitment with? And even later, an engagement with? How could I? And now…how could I ask him what I had planned to ask him? —and what I am dying to truly say to him?

I feel him stiffen and his jaw set. I feel his gaze on me, lingering on me. How could I ever say goodbye to his eyes that’s given me enough light for all those years?

“Emary,” he calls to me, so soft, so gentle. “Emary, look at me.” He leans more forward like he just want to get the table at the middle of us out. He holds up his hand and try to reach mine. But I don’t want to. His right hand falls silently on the table, waiting for mine. “Please.”

I look up. And see pain in his eyes. He says, “You’re mad.”

“I’m not,” I reply. It’s both a lie and a truth.

“You are, Em. But please, you will right?” I will what? Of course. I will understand.

“You know our situation, and you know about Sara,” he continues. “Our first meeting, it will be held in Wales. I have to.”

“Of course you have to,” I try to smile but my face betrays me.

I straighten and lean forward a bit. “I know this is what your parents are preparing you from since you’re fourteen, right?” He nods. I continue. “I will Jude. I will understand. Since when didn’t I understand you?” I laugh a little. “From all the pain and joy we shared since we’ve been born? From all the memories and how we two both know each other?”

He takes my left hand and I’m late in realizing that I moved it on top of our table. Its gentle warmth stirs my pain away. I try all I can to continue speaking in order not to cry.

“Jude, you don’t have to be sorry.”

His grip tighten for a while in my hand. “I don’t know.”

This time I’m the one who tighten the grip in our linked hands. This is the feeling I don’t want Jude to feel. I know him. He is an everything to a friend. He is everything to me. He doesn’t have to be sorry for going away, for leaving me. Though all I want to be is by his side always, I don’t want to risk being selfish. This is what his parents want for him, in fact, it’s like why he is born in the first place. This is his future.

“Jude please,” I say. “Everything’s going to be alright. Everything’s going to be in place.”

“I know but…” I just don’t see the pain in his eyes. But I also sense the sadness in his voice. “But how will everything be in place if you’re not with me?” He waits for my answer. But I can’t find my voice. It’s somehow lost in my throat and goes right through his heart. “How? If you are part of my everything?”

Me too. I want to say it. But he knows it already. He knows me. Of course we are part of the other’s everything. But somehow, he became not just a part of me. He is everything of me. And yet.

I grab my composure. “You told me a while ago that I will. Now you have to do it for yourself Jude. Understand. Right?”

He lets go of my hand. But he does not lean back. He stay as close as possible. He finally says something, “Emary, I’ll still see you okay? I’ll still come and visit here until the time comes that Sara and I…” he stops. He searches my face, my eyes.

I smile at him. And I finish again his words: “Before you two got married, like after 5 years from now.”

He smiles sadly. “I’ll miss you Em.”

I look at him still. Trying to communicate with him through my eyes saying: I will too. You know that.

And he read it. He reaches for my hand and squeezes it, giving me an assurance. A gentle notion. Very much like him.

“I have to go,” he says to me. “I’ll still see you tomorrow right?” I nod.

He stands up and moves closer to me. And just that he leans toward me and embraces me while I sit, frozen, still. But I find my breathing again and hug him back. I hug him like I don’t want him to ever let go. Which is nonsense, of course. He’ll leave by Saturday. And we only have one day left: Tomorrow.

“Don’t you forget me Em like I won’t ever forget you, okay?” he says to me. I feel his lips move against my hair.

“I won’t I promise. Even if you have your own kids and mine,” I say, forcing the whole of me to say the last sentence.

He laughs. He laughs while we still cling in our embrace. He laughs and I love it and I will miss it.

“I’ll miss you,” he says again and lets go. I blink back the tears. He smiles at me. The one I’ve always love. Now I will miss it everyday of my life.

I give him my smile of assurance. He gives me one last glance and smiles and turns and leaves without saying goodbye. Of course we still have tomorrow. And tomorrow I will hear that word.

Goodbye.

I watch him go and out the door. Gone.

Gone.

My plan too is gone. I never had the chance to ask him.

Jude, do you love me? I will ask.

And then he’ll say his answer to me: Of course Em. You know that.

Of course I know that. I know what his answer will be. I just want him to say it loud and clear. I want to hear it out of his mouth. And yet.

Because I know him, and I know him too much, I know what he means by it.

And he’ll continue saying: I love you Em. You are always a part of my everything.

I know, I know, I know. And he means it because I’m his best friend, and he is my best friend. But it’s different for me Jude, for all those years. I never just loved you for you are my friend, my best friend. I have fallen for you. You are my everything Jude. And I love you.

But I’m too late. The very first time I have been late for him.

It’s too late.

It’s too late.

Too late.

This is what his parents want for him, in fact, it’s like why he is born in the first place. This is his future.

This is what his parents want for him. But does he want it too? Of course.

It’s like why he is born in the first place. But doesn’t he have a choice? Of course.

This is his future. And he will never be my future. Of course.

Finally, I have the courage to glance around the coffee shop, to avert my eyes at the doorway where he left. Many people have gone. Many seats vacant.

Then I wonder. I’m eighteen. He’s eighteen. There are still years to come and I wonder if in those years, there will be some kind of magic. If there will ever come a time when everything changes like winter to summer? Like hate to love? I hope so. But is my wishing a selfish one?

There is nothing bad to hope, right? For to hope is something when everything falls apart. And I want to hope. I want to hope until my heart finally gives up voluntarily.

But for now, I want to understand. And that understanding may lead to his happiness. I want him to be happy. He wants me to be happy. And I will. For I will always remember what he told me three years ago: Your beauty shines the best whenever you laugh, whenever you smile, whenever you are happy.

I will never forget those words.

I look at my mug on the table. I beckon for the waiter, the same waiter who asked me a while ago and to whom Jude had ordered. He seems a bit surprised, but he goes my way anyway.

He smiles as he reaches my table. “What is it, ma’am?”

“I’d like to try some now,” I say to him. And his grin widens.

“English muffins ma’am? Or the Judy’s cheese bread?” he asks politely.

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