Lucy, the no show
I can imagine her getting on the plane to meet me in Rome. She strikes up a conversation with the man sitting next to her. Smiling, listening, twisting a finger through her cropped, blond hair. Realizing that she had more in common with the stranger than she did with me. No 12-year age difference, both studying English at the same university. Maybe they even share the same sense of goofy humor I could only pretend to relate to. Maybe that’s what happened.
Lucy, a student at USC, worked at a café near the warehouse-office I shared with a few other freelance creative-types. She was a bubbly university student, and I was a successful older man pursuing her with all the instruments my relative wealth allowed. Expensive meals at yuppie establishments and gifts of hard-to-find records or tasteful artworks. After six months, as I was headed to a conference in Rome, I invited Lucy to come meet me. “Finally, another stamp on my passport, Knox!” she said, so excited by the offer, so enamored with her generous, slightly mysterious older man.
Maybe she never got on the plane in the first place, had no intention of coming on the trip. She’d been humoring me, biding her time until she could let me down easy, and, when the opportunity never came, she decided to let me down hard. And I had been so worried it was her falling in love with me.
On our third date, I picked her up in my Volvo sports car and drove her across the city to a private dinner in my friend’s condo in Malibu. By candlelight, I served her a seared tuna steak and told her stories of my travels and many lost loves. In turn, she offered surprisingly candid anecdotes about her love life with a maturity that betrayed her age.
“How would you feel about having an older man for a boyfriend?” I asked.
“Fine, as long as he doesn’t think his wallet gives him the upper hand,” she replied, coolly.
Perhaps she’d been seeing someone else all along. I was her man on the side, who treated her to the finer things, but who her college friends didn’t even know existed. While I’d paraded her around town, taking her to openings and dinner parties and black tie events, I realized I had never even met her roommate.
These are the thoughts running through my head as I waited for five hours at the international terminal at Rome’s airport, watching as the bouquet of tiger lilies wilted in real time. When I finally left, a full four hours after her plane had arrived on time, I handed them to a younger American-looking guy, who also seemed to be waiting for his sweetheart.
“Thanks, mister,” he said. “Wish I thought to get some for my girl, but I was so excited to see her. She’s going to love ’em.”
“Of course, she will,” I said, as I turned towards the cab line.
Filed under: stories of heartbreak | 1 Comment