We were friends, good friends at that, but there was something about you that made me feel like a lost, love-struck, gawky teenager who could barely string a sentence together when with the opposite sex.
So there we were; the two of us, left at the dinner table on a perfectly warm Jo’burg evening after our friends had to excuse themselves to rush off to sudden commitments. The air was crisp and the atmosphere on 7th Avenue was exceptionally jolly. Cracks of laughter filled the air as people enjoyed each other’s company over good food, and hippies filled the streets with their shrieks of exuberance and brightly coloured clothing. They have always provided much needed entertainment by being great topics of conversation as their radical sense of self seems to amaze and amuse people.
‘But why did the other guys have to go so soon, leaving me all alone with him?’ I wondered. This must be the universe’s way of getting back at me for being attracted to him but having no guts whatsoever to admit it, so when I’m alone with him, we end up being entrenched in an atmosphere of awkwardness. I hope the awkwardness means that he feels the same way about me.
While sitting across each other at the dinner table in the dimly-lit restaurant while being serenaded with dreamy indie music and the relaxed chitter-chatter of diners in the background, my mind frantically searched for the next topic of conversation after we had critically analyzed the early exit of our friends. But the frantic search was interrupted by how strikingly handsome he looked in the dim light of red and orange hues.
His chocolate brown skin looked like it could melt with one touch of my hand; the twinkle in his eyes as captivating as finely polished diamonds, while his lips were inviting, commanding a kiss filled with uncontrollable passion. Besides his striking good looks, his personality is every girl’s dream. He’s the type of guy who makes sure that at the end of a bad day, a never-ending smile is placed on your face. When he asks how you’re doing after greeting you, he really means it and is concerned about what you have to say. He’s always cracking jokes and has the most infectious laugh that will leave you in stitches. He’s the best listener in the world and will not hesitate to be brutally honest as he values the people in his life to much to watch them live a lie.
He’s usually a great conversationalist, to the point where keeping quiet is almost a myth for him, but for some odd reason, tonight was his least talkative night. His lips began to move slowly as he uttered something that I couldn’t quite figure out. My eyes were still plastered on his succulently inviting lips, and I was still embroiled in a deep, passionate kiss with him in my imagination so much that it seemed like reality…
…Until he snapped his fingers in front of me, yanking me out of my day-dream and returning me to planet earth.
It was then that I learned that he was really talking to me, asking me what we’re going to do about the left-over slices of pizza that were splashed all over our table as if they were prizes from the oompa-loompas of Willie Wonka’s pizza division. I managed to master up a reply, telling him that we would have to ask for take-away packs for the left-over pizza.
Silence then filled the air.
I could hear the ticks of an imaginary clock beating away like a gigantic drum as they counted the seconds that passed. I could feel sweat drip down my forehead as I looked at him in awkward anguish, hoping that he would say something to break the silence that held our mouths hostage. He looked down at his brown leather watch as if hoping that it will mysteriously swallow him in. He then proceeded to look around the restaurant at the jolly diners that surrounded us. They seemed like holograms; pixilated images on a screen that surrounded us in an attempt to make us feel as though we were not really alone.
I was about to explode with nervousness when, by some miracle, I managed to string together to comment about how wonderful the restaurant was and how exceptional the pizza had been, to which he replied ‘I agree!’.
A dark, death-like silence filled the air once more.
He looked down at his brown leather watch again before turning his plate around as if he was changing the angle of the pizza slice that was on it. When he eventually looked up at me, I flashed an awkward smile coupled with a slight nod. I’m convinced that the nod was caused by the awkwardness beating my head against an invisible wall in as slight a manner as possible while causing a reflex action in the muscles in my cheeks. I simply sat there numbly for what felt like an eternity, plastered to my chair as if I was super-glued on it.
All conversation between us had died out. There was nothing, not a single utterance.
In fact, conversation between us had never even existed, except for the two-worded Q&A session we had about the left-over pizza slices.
In the silence, I began asking the Lord for a miracle, and not long after my plea, a savior came to our table.
She was dressed in a Heavenly white shirt and well-fitted black trousers and she carried a tray. She was quite short and petite; a neatly packaged young woman with long, brunette hair and a fringe that added a touch of glamour to her hair. She was exceptionally jolly for a waitress who seemed to be running around quite busily attending to quite a number of diners all at once. There were a few waitresses working that night, and even though the resturant was comfortably full, hungry diners can be quite a handful if the adequate manpower is missing. In all my anguish at the awkward silence, my eyes managed to read her name tag, and I learned that her name was Sarah.Even though she was busy that night, she seemed happy at tending to diners, to the point where I thought that she loved being a waitress.
In the most angelic yet jovial voice I ever heard, Sarah asked ‘do you guys need anything else or can I get the bill?’. We both jumped up, almost falling off our chairs and knocking down the dinner table to belt out a life-saving ‘yes!’. At that moment, we both looked at each other with embarrassment, as if we knew that we had confessed our need to remove ourselves from each other’s presence.
A split silence filled the air as the embarrassment swept through like a quick gust of wind, until I gathered tons of courage and asked for the bill and for the table to be cleared. It didn’t take long before Sarah brought the bill. The adrenaline rush that I experienced throughout this evening left me feeling numb yet jumpy, and everything seemed to move in slow motion before proceeding to excelerate in at an astronomical speed when I needed to be conscious.
So when Sarah handed us the bill, I whipped out my purse like a crazy person wanting to leave a mental institution. My forced date and Sarah gave me an awkward look before pretending that the moment never happened. My date then decided that he would settle the bill, to which I gave a spastic approving nod.
‘At last!’ I sighed silently in my mind, The ordeal was over and I could return to being human again.
Once my savior Sarah had been paid, I forced my numb body off of the chair I was sitting on and I tried to walk as normally as possible, even though I felt as though I would lose my balance. Luckily, he walked in front of me, so he couldn’t see me wobble as I attempted to walk as normally as possible.
As soon as we were outside the restaurant, we turned to each other to say goodbye.
I was afraid of looking too deeply into his eyes as my body would lose all balance and topple me over, so my eyes bounced all over the place. With a slight chuckle from the both of us, we both lied to each other and said that we had a good time. After a short awkward silence, he said goodnight, gave me an impersonal side hug and walked away without looking back.
I stood on pavement for a while, feeling the calm after the storm and feeling like I wasted what seemed like an eternity of my time. At least I could breathe again and all my senses returned to me. The gawky, love-struck, teenage-like girl was gone; pressure was lifted off my shoulders. It was refreshing, as if I had been splashed with ice-cold water after being removed from a furnace.
I can’t help but feel that the evening would’ve been perfect had I not been left alone with you.
*image from weheartit.com