2. SHE is no longer the understudy.
SHE had been sitting alone at this table for 17 minutes now. She fidgeted with her dangly necklace, checked her phone habitually, felt her face flush with embarrassment. She stood out in this place like Rudolph’s glaring nose. No, worse. She was the inappropriately naked character in the everybody’s worst dream, wandering around with no place to hide. Could she possibly be more conspicuous? People were staring at her. And not just people – couples – this was definitely a romantic restaurant. She felt their eyes pitying, wondering, “That poor woman. Surely she’s not eating alone?”
She second-guessed her decision to come inside and be seated rather than wait in the car, but it was a hot August evening. Getting a table had seemed a better option.
Her husband should have been here a half-hour ago now, but he was routinely late. He wasn’t answering her texts, so he was likely on his way. Should she go ahead and order drinks? No. This is their anniversary. No hurry. She would continue to wait for him.
The waiter came to the table a second time. She smiled awkwardly and assured him her dinner companion would be there any minute. Then came the message: “Got distracted. Sorry. Don’t have time to meet you now, but you can come here and maybe make it in time to have barbecue with us.”
I’m sorry, WHAT??
He had just stood her up on their anniversary?
Her heart began to race; she felt her face flush with anger and humiliation, and that all-too-familiar feeling of being unimportant.
She now had the choice to join him for – of all things – baked beans and coleslaw with his buddies, or leave the lovely restaurant, go back to the hotel, and feel sorry for herself.
Suddenly she realized her third option, and this moment would serve as the catalyst for her future. A simple return text, filled with measureless subtext: “I won’t be joining you.” She had always been an afterthought in his life, and his treatment caused her to always put herself in the background as well. That ended with this moment. She would no longer settle for the role of understudy in her own life.
She put her phone away, took a deep breath and looked around the room. Suddenly it seemed no one noticed at her at all.
The waiter returned a third time. “I’m having dinner alone tonight,” she said, looking him in the eye. She perused the entrees and mustered the confidence to have dinner – very publicly – alone.