"Just face it Mike, you got stood up!" He couldn't stop laughing. "Ha ha, you got stood up!"
Bill and his sense of humor did little to befriend me and the energetic face I carried half an hour ago had long since vanished. His remarks were audibly irritating, but did nothing to affect my current state of mind.
Where the heck was she?
She was more than a half an hour late and I was starting to get a little nervous. I was too excited about the date so I got here more than an hour ago. It seemed like a smart play at the time, but right now I wasn't so sure.
Though that was troubling, what I found truly annoying was them.
"What the hell are you guys doing here!" I bellowed. "You know I'm waiting for my date, so get the **** out of here. I don't need you guys here to screw it up." I was irritated and they knew it, but as expected from my friends, they were drawn to my plight. I wallowed in self doubt and they had front row seats; I knew they wouldn't miss it for the world. Though cynicism was common play in our friendship, I didn't welcome it today.
It was dusk and the suns warmth was fading, but the crisp cool spring air was refreshing. The purplish pink skyline began to give way to the velvet blackness of the twilight sky, the luminescence felt surreal. We were standing outside the Keystone theater on the grass lawn just in front, a short distance from the ticket booth. I was standing there anxiously, waiting for my date to arrive. Next to me was them, my friends if you could call them that. But not all of them, just the ones who had nothing better to do than to harass me on a Saturday night.
"What kind of girl would go out with you anyways? I have to see it to believe it. But you know, we're here to support, that's what friends are for." replied Bill with a sly grin. "Especially if you got stood up!" He burst into laughter, he could hardly control himself.
His words caught my attention this time, the jibe was almost overpowering and it ran deep for some reason. I guess I really was shaken. I didn't feel like doing this anymore, going home seemed like a good idea.
Ted coughed, "Stood up". His fist covered his mouth; however his poor acting was a dead giveaway for his real intentions. "It's OK Mike, people get stood up, but I haven't seen it before...not in person really, only in the movies. It just doesn't happen to me. Too bad though, I really wanted to check out your chick."
"She's not my chick and it's just a date. So can you guys please leave?"
"OK, but you know Mike, if she doesn't show, at least it will be memorable."
That one really hurt, because there was truth in his words. I knew he would be right, however being stood up on my first date at Kadena was not how I wanted to start my dating life here. Where was she? Maybe I asked the wrong girl; a beautiful smile came in to mind. "Maybe I should have asked her instead?" I wondered. But the cards were dealt and so I needed to keep my poker face. In defiance to his words, I raised my hand and gave Ted the one finger salute.
"The National Anthem just ended and the previews are starting now so let's go inside," yelled Todd from the theater doors. He and Bert had gone inside earlier to save seats for the group. Todd was eager to watch the movie and he really didn't have any interest in my predicament; however, his apathetic view for my situation felt consoling.
"Hey Joe, we are going in." said Bill.
Joe seemed oblivious to the calling. He was in his own world, busy talking to the beautiful full featured girl standing next to him. Her back was towards me and as the wind brushed her long black hair, it began to sway. A slight sense of delusion came to bare as even her hair began to mock me as well, "Ha ha, I have a date and you don't."
"I'm going crazy," I thought. Where was she!
Although Joe wasn't showing off, the site of his date me uneasy; perhaps because I realized that a date could be something that I might never have. Joe abruptly turned his head towards me, he looked smug. "I think I'll give Mike a few pointers first. He's gonna need them, if she ever shows up." Then he let out a short laugh.
And so did everyone else.
In unison, Bill and Ted repeatedly echoed "Stood-up, stood-up," all the way to the doors of the Keystone theater. A few airmen and their dates began to peer into the commotion, a few more chuckles fell into my ears. Like go-ki-bu-ri in the kitchen when the lights came on, the instigators soon vanished; the only signs of their existence were the fresh tracks of embarrassment that ran across my face.
"Come on Mike, we all wanted to know." said Joe. "You can't blame us for being curious."
"Of course I can," I thought.
"I hope she's hot, otherwise I'll be disappointed in you."
"Why do you care? You go out with lots of girls." I asked.
"I do, but you guys don't. Most of you wouldn't know what to do with a girl anyways. Since this is your first date, I had to come check it out. You'll probably need a few words of advice from an expert, right?" Joe winked.
I was too bothered to correct him about the first date comment, plus I doubt he would've believed me anyways. But Joe was right, I really did need his help. He was after all the most experienced one in the group. And the one most likely not to be filled with crap about dating. Though he was on a date as well, he looked confident and in control, quite the opposite of how I felt. At times like this, I wished I could be more like him.
"Just relax and be yourself. And when the time is right, lean over, put your hand right here and make out; that's it. You know how to unlatch a bra right?"
"Whoa, wait a second. I don't think that's going to happen."
"Don't limit yourself, go with the flow. If you start with limits, you'll never find out how far you can go."
I'm was having a hard time thinking of anything beyond having my date show up, yet Joe's comment struck a chord.
"It's our first date so I'm not going to do anything rash, she's not like the girls you date?"
That got his attention; Joe seemed a bit annoyed. "What do you mean the girls that I date?"
I smiled and smugly replied, "And by the way, I have taken off a bra before."
Joe didn't believe me, but we both began to laugh anyways.
Luckily Vanessa, Joe's date, was engaged in a conversation with her friend; otherwise I felt a serious beating would have been coming my way.
Joe began a small speech on the ins and out of making out, how not to get caught by parents, and about never saying no to a date, regardless of your current situation. Though I didn't agree with all of it, I didn't bother to say a word. One thing for sure, at least for the moment I stopped worrying about the time, the movie and most importantly, my missing date.
Minutes passed and Joe finished. But before he left, he gave me one more line of advice.
"Trust me, it will work. Use it when the time is right, you'll know when."
Then he went into the Keystone theater with Vanessa.
I turned and stared at the street west of theater, where the cars drove up to reach the parking lot. I kept on wondering if she would ever show up. I looked down at my watch, checked the time and my heart began to sink. I knew that the movie started more than ten minutes ago so I tried to remain calm. But despair flooded my mind and the dark shadows of insecurity began to engulfed me. Like Skrik's canvas, I howled in silence and resumed my tumble into the land of indignation. Luckily I didn't remain there long as consciousness suddenly took hold; the jolting sensation of a familiar right hand brought me back into the world of reason.
"Still holding on to hope?" said Renno "It's alright Mike, at least she accepted the date. Even if you do get stood up, it doesn't change the fact that she did say yes."
Surprised, I was speechless for a second. I didn't even realize he was standing there. Was Renno really trying to cheer me up? I guess only those in the bet knew the risks that were at stake. Unfortunately, I didn't think Renno could truly understand my situation now. Getting a flat "No" was a thousand times better than getting stood up. If I got rejected, then I would be in the same club as Ricardo and Renno and my social life would be no better than theirs. However I got a "yes". And I let all of my friends know about it. I knew I was bragging, but I couldn't control myself. So the consequences of failure at this point felt far more dire than anything he could imagine.
"That's easy for for you to say, you're not the one getting stood up."
Renno laughed and so did I. I felt relieved, somehow his empathy gave me the strength I needed. The looming darkness began to fade and I found myself once again; a lost smile found its way home.
"Don't worry kiddo, sometimes these things happen for the best. The first round of Gummy Bears are on me, so let's go watch the movie before it ends."
"Thanks Renno, but I can't give up just yet." I knew it was my bravado talking, but I couldn't help it. It made sense to say screw it and just watch the movie, but what if she did show up, just late? At least if that did happen, I could yell at her for making me suffer. Some how, that plan made me feel much better.
"It's twenty minutes into the movie Mike. I really think you got stood up. Let's just go."
"If she doesn't show in a few minutes, I'm going home. I don't think I can face everyone after this disaster."
"Why would you do that? You already bought the tickets. Sure everyone will laugh, but it doesn't change anything. We'll all be making fun of you for weeks regardless, so you might as well enjoy the movie. It's got Richard Chamberlain in it, so let's go."
"Fine I'll go in, just give me a minute."
"Alright Mike. See you in a bit. I'll save a seat for you."
Then Renno walked into the Keystone.
Another minute passed; I was disappointed in my date, but I wasn't angry at her either. I knew I would have plenty to say to her, but that would have to wait until Monday morning. I turned and began my walk to the entrance.
A few steps from the doors, I heard the faint screaming of a familiar voice.
"Mike wait!!!" she yelled.
I turned and saw a pair of headlights carving it's way through the shadows, a white car was approaching. It was difficult, but I could see the silhouettes of the people inside the car. My date and her driver weren't the only ones coming. Dangling through the passenger side window was Zoe and she was yelling my name.
Good friends sometimes stop you from making bad decisions. Their help may not be obvious, like giving you just enough time to think things through, but the results are usually for the best. Though this memory was mostly bleak for me, I could never forget it either. Not because I was about to get stood up, but because my friends were there to help me stand up. If it wasn't for Joe and Renno that day, I would have given up and gone home. So guys, thanks for the save.