He stood there waiting patiently at the counter for his name to be called. He was really hungry. Shouldn’t take too long for today’s lunch order. He could feel the baritone of his stomach rehearsing, and certainly without the crazy volume of this lunchtime crowd, he’d be anxious someone might hear the roars of his innards. He was grateful not to have to worry about that embarrassment, although he had become quite proficient in timing his coughs with the growl of his gut. He decided on a salad; hold the croutons, and dressing on the side. He worried they’d forget to put the dressing on the side.
This had been passed down from his mother’s side; his worrying. It had ruled most of his teenage and post pubescent life until just recently, when he finally decided to get help. It had only been a few days of administering the prescribed medication so it was difficult to know for sure whether it would help.
There was a woman leaning against a nearby wall, also waiting for her food. What he could make out through his side eye was she had long brunette hair erupting from underneath a baseball cap; possibly Boston Red Sox. She was wearing a red flannel shirt and cowgirl boots. He could tell she was gorgeous, even with him using only ⅓ of his eyesight. He smoothly turned to use both his eyes, wanting to see if she was wearing a ring. Damn it, she was.
He began to daydream about that left ring finger of hers being vacant. What would he do then? Would he approach her? What would he even say?
He walked towards her, being sure to smile as his eyes met hers. He wanted her to know she was safe; they both were safe; it was okay. Her eyes were stunning: Persian blue. God, he loved blue eyes. Her smile dazzled, and her petite nose was perfectly placed center stage.
Wait….she was smiling? Yes, she was smiling: a dazzling smile, remember?
He landed, leaning against the wall next to her. He didn’t want to, but he surrendered his gaze and pivoted to face forward. She smelled really good. She was a goddess. They were side by side now, just inches apart, both of them facing toward the pickup counter. Now what?
He hesitated, unsure exactly what he should say. He wasn’t even sure what to do. He had traveled what felt like miles to get here, and now, he was right where he intended, but with nothing to say, no plan, and no end game. He whipped out his phone and lowered his face low, trying to appear occupied by the glowing screen, and he re-initiated Operation Side Eye. Shit - what was taking them so long?! It was only a damn salad, with the dressing on the side! Please let them remember to put the dressing on the side.
He could sense her gaze. He could feel her eyes on him, and she was still donning that smile. He kept his face buried in the screen. Everything began to quiet down, and all he could hear was a muted version of the same chaotic lunch crowd all around.
A salad appeared on the counter. Oh thank God. The teenage staffer let go of his plated meal, and yelled “order up for Mr. Dingles!”.
Mr. Dingles? Oh for Christ’s sake. Seriously? Ugh. It’s McDouglas.
He quickly grabbed his plate and began to march away with his head focused on the linoleum squares below.
A voice from behind him spoke. “Mr. Dingles?” trailing with a giggle, “Is that really your name?” He turned to acknowledge and explain it was indeed NOT his name, but in doing so, dropped his newly-acquired plate of fresh ruffage to the floor with a shattering smash.
This had quickly turned into a living nightmare, and the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen was watching it all unfold before her gorgeous blue eyes. He began picking up lettuce from the floor, pinching each leaf between his fingers, and returning them to the palm of his other hand.
A few rogue tomatoes had slid outside his reach, and the sliced cucumber was slimy to the touch.
His name. That was his name. That’s correct, that’s my name!
“Sir, are you McDouglas? Your order is up.” explained the teenager.
He looked around, noticing no sign of any debacle or spills on the floor. His hands were clean; his stomach still growling. The beautiful woman was gone.
“Oh…….I’m sorry,” he replied, “I must have been daydreaming.”
Written by Chad Zingales on 4/18/23 while staring directly into the sun.