I slide my only quarter into the meter—one hour for lunch—and check my wallet to make sure I haven’t already lost the only twenty dollars to my name. Since I never get to go out with my girlfriend, my roommate Aric let me borrow some cash. Post doctoral students don’t make much. My watch reads 12:02; Margaux hates when I’m late. I hope two minutes does not upset her. She has been on edge lately.
I turn the corner and enter the deli’s packed patio. Margaux sits at a table chatting with one of her friends that I recognize from work. The small two-person table is not meant for three.
I search for a chair, interrupting a pair of businessmen in suits. “Is this taken?” I ask, but the man continues talking, waving me off. I hesitate before asking again, “Is this…”
“Get a load of this guy,” he says to his coworker. “Take it.”
The only room at the table is in the walkway. I situate the chair under the table as far I can, only succeeding in creating a few inches of walking room behind me.
“Sorry I’m late,” I say to Margaux. She sighs, rolling her eyes to her friend whose name I forgot.
Her friend stands up, “I’ll see you when you get back to work, Margaux. Good luck.”
“Thanks,” Margaux says.
“Excuse me,” her friend says to me.
I have to scooch my chair out for her to leave. She flashes an awkward smile with the corner of her mouth and then walks out. “Later,” I say as she leaves. No response. I slide over to her seat where there is a plate with a few scraps of food. “Did they forget to bus the table before you sat down?” I ask.
“We already ate,” Margaux says.
“I thought we were eating at noon?”
The server comes up to the table, scoffing at the chair in the aisle. “Here is your check when you’re ready.”
Margaux points at me and the server hands me the check.
“But… I don’t have…”
“Don’t, just don’t. I can’t do this anymore,” Margaux interrupts. “You weren’t man enough to end this, so I guess I have to.”
I have never been the model man. Short and skinny. Not the cool nerd, but the uber nerd. Acne, hunched shoulders, and a pocket protector. Not like her. Not like my goddess of a girlfriend. She is tall and blonde. Captain of the volleyball team in high school. We met in college and she was slow to liking me. I have that lukewarm charm that takes a while to heat up. I started out helping her with chemistry. She was lost, but with a lot of help and tutoring from me she got her degree. Last week.
“It’s over,” she stands, flips her hair to one side, then walks out.
Four years I have known her. We went to the same high school although she didn’t know who I was then. I open the tab to see I owe $19.23. Not much left for tip. I slide the twenty in and stand to leave, trying not to make a scene as the tears have found an aquifer beneath the surface. I turn to see the businessmen snickering. I walk with my head hung to avoid eye contact.
On my way to the car I hear the server yell, “Fucking asshole!”