Here is Episode 3 of the serial “Familiar.” Be sure to read Episodes 1 and 2 if you haven’t already, and don’t forget to follow Would You Keep Reading? on Twitter and Facebook using the icons at the top right!
I probably should have told her who I was, but it didn’t seem to matter.
I drove to work, tapping the screen of my phone at every stoplight to see if she had replied. She hadn’t. I parked at the office, reread my message, and thought about what an idiot I was—something I did, and still do, quite often.
The sun had started to peek out from behind the office buildings in the distance, and I walked in the big and plain and gray building I spent forty to fifty hours in every week. I sat at my desk, was greeted by my office mate Todd who strolled in fifteen minutes late once again, and then my phone buzzed.
Her response was gracious and reassuring.
“Morning! I’m guessing this is Justin? Haha :)”
The smiley face at the end made everything better. Smiley faces always make everything better.
I typed my reply quickly—too quickly, I thought—and waited a few minutes before I hit send.
My message read, “Haha yes! Sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve done this . . .”
“No worries! I’m happy to hear from you. :)”
I pictured her actual smile landing at the end of that message and smiled. My boss walked by and I pretended to work—thinking about my reply. She walked by again and I decided actually working would be easier than pretending, so that’s what I did—after I replied to Olivia of course.
“I’ve been meaning to text you. . .” I typed. “Just been busy at work. What are you doing for lunch on Thursday?”
I put my phone on Do Not Disturb, bracing for impact, and tried not to check it. I lasted exactly four minutes. No reply.
A slight wave of panic coursed through my veins. Was I too forward? Should I have asked her how her Monday was? Am I a complete idiot?
I kept working—well, staring at a screen, typing a few words here and there, and reading parts of emails—then my questions were answered. Two out of three at least. The jury’s still out on the last one.
Her message read, “Thursday is the one afternoon I have a meeting over lunch this week! But I could do breakfast. :)”
I wasn’t too forward—she didn’t seem to care that I didn’t ask about her Monday. She used another smiley face.
I told her breakfast would work, and we ironed out the details in a rapid exchange of messages. She seemed as eager as I was—and used a lot of smiley faces. I liked it when she used a lot of smiley faces.
I put my phone away again and began working, but I was on autopilot the rest of the day. It was good that I didn’t have anything important to do that day. It was good that I never had anything important to do while I worked in that castle of beige.
My mind worked though—imagining how our breakfast would go and all the other breakfasts after it. I remember thinking “I know nothing about this person, and by this time tomorrow, that should change.” I didn’t know many people in that city, and the idea of actually getting to know one was exciting. I wondered what she would be like, what shows she watched on Netflix, who she was when she wasn’t at a church. . .
I swiveled around in my chair.
“Dude, I’ve been saying your name for like a minute!”
“Sorry, just got lost in my head. I’m sure you can relate.” I wasn’t really sure he could relate. Is it possible to get lost in a big empty space?
“No, I get that.” He looked down. “I get that.”
I waited for him to continue but he did not.
“Did you want something, Todd?”
He looked at me with a blank stare—I guess it was possible.
“Oh yeah. Can you throw me your stapler? I can’t find mine.”
I tossed it to him and turned around to work again. It looked like I’d need to buy a new stapler again.
But I couldn’t be bothered by that or by Todd’s incessant pen tapping that he affectionately called drumming. Nothing could bother me.
I had a date.
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