Home > prose and poetry > never again am i going to be late, version 2

never again am i going to be late, version 2

Padded it out a bit, added a lot more meat to the bones. Blame Guy de Maupassant!

(As a sidenote, “Happiness” and “At the Spa” are pretty brilliant.)

//

I looked at my watch. It was already a quarter past ten, and I was late. “As usual,” she’d say. I couldn’t deny it: I had made a bad habit of being late. But it was never on purpose. Things always popped up, shit always happened. My cat would decide to shit in the middle of the living room, the water tank would suddenly decide to overflow, or the old lady next door would suddenly need a ride to the clinic because her “knees hurt.” Things like that. Things out of my control.

But sometimes I just forgot. That happened too, more often than I would like to admit. I knew she deserved better than that, but every time I promised her (and myself) that I’d never do it again, it’d invariably happen within the same month. I’d realize that I needed to drop something off at a friend’s place, needed to take a shit before I headed out of the house, stupid things like that. Things that I could have avoided with just a bit more planning. A wee bit more.

If our relationship was a baseball game I’d have been out ten times over, but she exhibited that loving patience most people reserve for their elders and annoying nephews, nieces and children. Perhaps this contributed to my inability to kick the habit of being late: she’d always been there, waiting patiently, greeting me with that sweet smile of hers regardless of how late I was. I knew that she’d eventually lose patience with me, though, and that it was a matter of “when” rather than “if,” but I was confident that it would be a while yet. Enough time for me to turn things around and buck up.

Perhaps I was taking her love for granted, but back then that was the last thing in my mind. I loved her. Sure, I was oftentimes late to our meetings, but I’d always arrive eventually, and I loved her all the same. And that, I thought, would help her overlook my troubles with punctuality.

However, I thought little on those matters as I made my way towards the closest LRT station, which was about fifteen minutes’ walk from my house. On another day I would probably have decided to wait for the bus, but that day I just didn’t want to do so. I didn’t want to be made even later, and so I walked. It wasn’t a particularly sunny or hot day, though, which was fortunate.

I reached the station before the bus, which, if anything, perked me up and validated my choice of action. The station was as busy as ever, swirling masses of people headed in every possible direction, talking, smiling, laughing. I stopped for a while to rest my legs and catch my breath, and bought a canned drink from a vending machine. As I opened the can and raised it to my lips, my cellphone buzzed in my pocket.

“Where are you?”

“On my way, honey.”

“I can’t wait for you all day, you know.”

“I know. That’s why I’m on my way. I’ll see you in a bit.”

“Hmph . . . alright.”

And she hung up. The tone of her voice sounded almost . . . ominous, as if indicating that something significant was in the air. Almost like a warning. It worried me, and I decided to gulp down my drink as fast as I could. I would have to pick up my pace. The clock was ticking.

It was nearly a quarter to eleven, and I wasn’t even on the train yet. Not good. Not good at all. My gut feeling told me to hurry up, and that was what I did.

But when I saw the length of the queue at the ticket window, my heart sank. Things didn’t look good. Fortunately, I realized that I had the exact change to buy a ticket from the ticket-vending machines, which saved me from having to line up. Just as well, since the train arrived just as I stepped onto the platform. Mouthing a silent “thank you” to God or whoever is up there, I boarded and sat down in an empty seat, next to a balding old man in a suit and tie who was nodding off, half-asleep, with a rolled up newspaper clutched in his left hand.

For the amount of people milling about in the station, there were certainly very few people in the train itself. I put it down to the fact that most people were heading into the city and not away from it, what with it being a Sunday and all. But I wasn’t going to complain; it was just how I liked it.

I breathed a semi-sigh of relief as the doors closed and the train started moving. It wasn’t a long train ride, but it certainly felt like it. And throughout it I couldn’t shake the ominous feeling I had in my gut: something wasn’t exactly right. Something was about to happen. I tried my best to calm myself down, and looked out the window at views I had seen numerous times before. There were dark clouds on the horizon. It was raining somewhere in the distance.

The pre-recorded female voice chimed in, notifying the passengers that the train was about to arrive at the next station. My stop. I got up and headed towards the door in a sort of nervous anticipation. I couldn’t bear to sit down any more. That feeling in my stomach was getting stronger and stonger.

As soon as the doors opened up wide enough for me to get through, I stepped out. As usual, I was the only one that got off there. It was never a busy station, even on public holidays. We liked to meet there for that exact reason.

Every time, she’d always be waiting in that same spot just in front of the stairs, and she’d always have that same expression on her face that lit up my world everytime I saw it. And I was expecting, hoping, to see the same thing again that day.

But she wasn’t there.

The significace of that fact took a little while to register with me, but once it did, all the worries and troubles that had been bothering me during the train ride came to the forefront and gripped me like a vice. I began to panic. I hoped that she had just gone away for a while, maybe to the toilet, maybe to buy a drink for us. I believed in her. I loved her. She couldn’t have just left.

So I waited, cold sweat trickling down my forehead.

The minutes passed by in their slow dance, each tick of the large clock suspended above my head accompanied by a nervous tap of my right foot.

Where was she? Where’d she gone off to? Would she be back?

My mind raced with questions . . . questions I had no answer to.

The disembodied voice of a station attendant reminding passengers to stand behind the yellow line and allow other passengers to disembark before boarding rang clearly through the speakers as the next train pulled into the station, disgorging a handful of passengers toting bulging shopping bags, laughing and smiling.

I followed them with my eyes as they walked past that spot in front of the stairs where she’d usually be, and I noticed something that, in my panic, I hadn’t noticed before. It was a small piece of paper weighed down with a rock at the exact spot where she’d usually be standing.

I went over and picked it up. Written on it, in her delicate, fragile hand, was one single word.

“Sorry.”

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