Rebecca, late once again, and as usual, Robert waited for her. Today, she had called shortly before their planned meeting time and told him cheerfully that for once, I’m on time, and I did it for you. I’ll be there in two minutes. Aren’t you happy and do you love me?
— Yes, he said. I’m waiting by the fountain, next to the old men playing chess. It’s cold, so I hope you have a thick coat this time.
— I do, the red winter one you like.
In reality, he also was on his way, walking through the subway platform to exit on the northwest side. For the past year he had planned their meeting times half an hour before he himself arrived since she was habitually late. Nothing could fix her tardiness.
Most men wished (and hardly asked) their girlfriends to stop nagging them, want it more, and stop the inevitable weight gain, but Robert only wished that Rebecca would be on time. When they went on their first date after they met at the circus he waited about 45 minutes for her on a humid morning, his back so soaked with perspiration that when she finally arrived, he stood apart, unwilling to impart a hug. Date after date and it went on and on, and she said so sorry! I’m so sorry. I always try to leave earlier and somehow, it’s still always later.
She was beautiful and sweet and so he dealt with it for a while. His resentment grew. How many hours had he wasted, waiting for her in undesirable conditions? She came to his house about twice a week, always about 30 minutes late, so that’s one hour there; they usually met for happy hour after work on Wednesdays, and she’d be anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour late, so total, about two hours so far. On the weekends, when she had to “get ready”, it was at least two hours for each day, and they went out about two times a week, so four hours. Suppose it was about six hours a week?
On a lucky night, six hours was a full night of sleep. Three movies. Two outings. Like this, he calculated all the ways she had wasted his time. He was almost at the park, but walked slower as he came closer, as if a direct result from the time she took from him. Six hours. I could drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco once a week. New York to D.C. Visits to the Smithsonian that never transpired. He got closer, and saw a crowd near the fountain. Still in a daze, he didn’t wonder what was going on until he walked right up to people leaning toward the center, gossiping. He asked a teenage boy what was going on as his eyes searched for Rebecca in her red coat.
Some lady went to the hospital, he said. A man threw acid on her face. Random, isn’t it?