I could barely contain the sweaty mess that my nerves conjured up. It had been almost two years since I’ve been on a date, and I was worried about what the future has in store for me. I wouldn’t have come on this date, but my co-worker, John, insisted that I meet his friend.
As if he was right beside me, I can almost hear him say, “Dude, you seriously need this. Your mopiness and loneliness are starting to ruin the vibe of the office.”
All he told me about her was that her name was Marrissa, and she’s a psychologist. I have no expectations for her, but I was more concerned with what she would think of me. My last girlfriend said I’m incapable of love and unsuitable for a happy relationship. She was even kind enough to include how miserable I was on my own. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marrissa had thought the same, but I would prefer that she didn’t.
I looked at the empty seat across from me and then at my phone. She was supposed to arrive five minutes ago. I knew it wasn’t that long of a time, but I couldn’t help wondering if I was being stood up. Did she take a look at me from the window and realize that I didn’t meet her standards? Did John tell her something awful that changed her mind?
Panicking, I fiddled with my fingers, staring at the flower I brought. I hadn’t been on a date in so long that I didn’t even know if women expected flowers. Before coming to the restaurant, I must have stood outside of the florist for a while, contemplating if I should buy them. I decided to go with a singular, red rose because it’s something, but it wasn’t too much.
“Ethan?” Snapped out of my thoughts, I looked up to the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. She had perfect brown curls that rested on her shoulders and blue, twinkling eyes. She already wore a smile so grand that the urge to smile back overcame me. A comforting feeling of home and familiarity washed over me.
“M-M-Marrissa?” I stuttered. Trying to stand up, I knocked my chair over. Only a minute into the night and I was already making a fool out of myself. Swiftly, I turned to pick up the chair and rubbed my sweaty palms on my pants.
Laughing, she said, “I’m assuming that’s you then?”
Chuckling, I nodded as we both took our seats. She picked up the menu that the waiter dropped off. Unsure of what to say, I noticed the rose again.
Gulping, I told her, “Um, I, uh, I brought you this rose.” With a small, unsure smile, I offered it to her.
Her face lit up as she took it. “Oh my God!” She exclaimed. “No one’s ever brought me a flower before! It’s beautiful. Thank you!”
My nerves faded, and my confidence slowly returned.
“So what are you ordering?” She asked.
Realizing I hadn’t chosen a meal because I was too busy being anxious, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind: “A shrimp cocktail.”
“Ooh, I’ll get that, too,” she responded, waving over the waiter.
After we order our meals and a bottle of champagne, we began to talk. The more she told me about herself, the more I wanted to know. Around her, my boundaries dissolved. I never felt this amount of trust around anyone I had just met. I wanted this moment to last forever. Our surroundings faded, and it felt like we created a world for just her and me.
“Do you want to…” The sound of her voice suddenly trailed off. Her voice sounded as if it’s growing farther away.
“I’m sorry. Could you say that a bit louder?” I began to notice the table was growing longer. Fright rushed through my blood. What was going on? How do I stop this?
“Marrissa? Marrissa, what’s happening?” Her appearance grew so hazy that I couldn’t recognize her. I tried to grab her hands, but she was too far. Attempting to stand up, I only felt myself sinking into my chair. This can’t be happening. The only thing circulating in my mind was that I never got to say goodbye.
“Marrissa!” I shouted, my vision growing blurry before becoming pitch black.
My eyes fluttered open as I shot up. Looking around at my surroundings, I realized I fell asleep on the couch, still in jeans and a shirt from last night. I fumbled around for my phone to check the time. Groaning, I realized I had only an hour to get ready and leave the house. Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I dragged myself off the couch and hobbled to the bathroom. Leaning on the sink, I stared at my reflection in the mirror.
I could barely recognize the man looking back at me. The beard that usually was perfectly trimmed short was now overgrown. My tired, puffy eyes hovered over my heavily prominent eye bags. I look as if I have aged a decade. I was ghostly, unkempt. My brown hair was a messy pile of curls on my head. Sighing, I stepped into the shower, letting the hot water pour onto me.
The events of last week were still faint as time felt like it had slowed down. I felt like there was this humming in the background, drowning out the world around me. I was alone, floating in my dark cloud of gloominess. My surroundings seem dreamlike and so unreal. I couldn’t process the events that happened. I wasn’t ready to think them either-much less accept them.
While drying myself off, I eye the pitch-black suit on my bed. I hadn’t laid in that bed for a long time. I couldn’t bring myself to. I would be betraying the memories if I had.
Sluggishly, I dressed and finished getting ready. John told me to wait for him to pick me up, so I walked outside of my apartment. The sky was cloudy and dark. It looked like it was going to rain. I almost laugh as I think how it reflected my mood.
Once I received the text from John, I went outside. When I found his car, I got into the seat next to him. I greet him with a small mumble, “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” he responds. I looked out the window, but I still felt like his concerned eyes were on me. “Are you ready for this? We don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”
I didn’t respond to him. Sighing, he started up the car and drove. The silent drive blurred together, feeling like just a minute. When we arrive at the graveyard, I slip out of the car. I hadn’t even noticed my trembling hands until I got out of the car. John and I went towards the small gathering of people in black apparel. They were quietly weeping around a coffin.
I froze from a distance, and the blood in my face drained. A couple of inches from the reception was a picture of Marrissa on our first anniversary. She wore her beautiful smile that I would never see again. It was one of my favorite things about her because she came into my life wearing that smile, brightening up my dark world. Now, she’s gone, and my world dimmed once again. I bit back the tears.
Marrissa wanted a small service. I remember when we were watching the sapping movie she begged me to watch, and the main character’s friend died. They had a long, extensive funeral where everyone was sobbing. She told me she didn’t want that because she didn’t want to pain people.
Inhaling, I went to stand with them. People gave me their condolences and tried to reminisce over stories with me, but I simply nod to everything they said. Their words and presence seemed distant. The entire time, I just stared at the coffin until it was inside the ground. Even then, I just stared at the gravestone with a lump in my throat. I bit it back; I wasn’t ready to cry yet. People slowly left but I stayed alone with my thoughts.
I sat adjacent to her grave. Memories from the three years we spent together flickered through my mind like a film. Each memory was more painful than the last. My heart throbbed as I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. The pain from missing her burned a hole filled with loneliness through my heart. The pain was so overwhelming that I just wanted to erase every memory of her so I would be able to move on- anything to erase this pain.
Her grave was piled high with flowers, but I wanted to give something personal to us, something traditional for us—a single red rose.
With tears in my eyes and a shaky voice, I managed to whisper, “Goodbye.”