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Time in a cup 

It's 7:45 p.m. and you've arrived at the coffee house a solid 15 minutes early. Guessing that she won't have made it here before you, you have nevertheless prepared a disclaimer against your uncool punctuality. Gaucheness is a precipice you are willing to skirt, however, as you haven't had a date this knee-weakening in ages.

Upon seeing a room full of empty tables, you sigh. This is all for the best, you think, as now you have the chance to sit at the most strategically placed table. You grab your drink and lounge. But the pages of your carefully picked novel might as well be blank for all that you grasp of them.

Eight o'clock comes and goes without fanfare. That's all right, you think, releasing an anchor of patience into your sea of nausea. She would never be right on time. The waves of air created by each successive opening of the cafe door mercilessly batter your little boat. Each new stranger's face is but a link in the chain zipping over your bow. Your anchor does not touch bottom.

At 8:15 you toy with a contrarian hope that she won't show. Like a swimmer poised on the starting block, you imagine what a relief it would be suddenly not to have to race. You find this fancy disappointingly arid, however. Only children picture avoidance as a rainbow with a pot of gold at its end. With a mild regret at being an adult, you do what you had promised yourself you would not. You look at your watch.

At 8:45 your mind gropes for explanations. Maybe she misunderstood the meeting time. But you had spoken with her just that afternoon. Maybe she's got transportation problems, you think. How could she? She lives within walking distance. Maybe she thinks being on time isn't important. Knowing that she received your bouquet of flowers, this possibility crumbles against her undoubted intelligence. You drain your third cup of coffee, as dry-mouthed as when you started your first.

At 9:15 you rage. After you had lent her your signed copy of Generation X, she doesn't even have the courtesy to tell you she's not interested. "Frailty, thy name is woman," you growl. And you hadn't even asked her to give the book back. "Idiocy, thy name is man," you finish.

At 9:30 you leave the coffee shop, imagining what you'll say to her next time you see her. Probably nothing. You have been stood up.

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