He takes another sip from his glass. There’s a film of liquid on his upper lip, but he doesn’t bother wiping it away. He keeps it there for a few seconds, wondering what would become of him if he was seen like this. Probably nothing, he concluded, but it felt nice to “let go,” even if it was in one of the most mundane ways possible. An mildly “unkempt” face was the furthest he could bear to fall.
He wasn’t going to go to the liquor store for something as simple as this. It’s not worth breaking decades of abstinence just to drown away a minor inconvenience. He knew he was tough enough. He wanted to distract himself – he wanted some form of release, but he knows that the life he has right now has enough of that. He knows how bad he would feel at night if he did something bad.
His conscience reins him in.
He waves a hand at a passing waitress, but she doesn’t notice. He smiles slightly – not because he’s happy, but because he’s trying to laugh it off. It’s embarrassing, but it’s not worth losing his decorum over. He’s got more important things to be outraged at.
A good thirty seconds or so passes. She comes back again. Not many waiters today, he notices. It’s Thursday. A sunny Thursday on the west side of the city, right beside the suburbs. The sunlight creeps near his table. It’s almost lunchtime, but not quite.
“Ah, sorry. One moment, please.” She explains hurriedly.
He nods, but before he can force a sound out, she leaves. Ah. He looks around, searching for something to focus his attention on. Maybe he should’ve gotten a bigger data plan. Maybe he should’ve gotten any data plan. He didn’t think that he would’ve needed it, but the awkwardness of modern solitude pushes his patience.
Looking outside the window is always going to work. Since the dawn of time, looking at something far away has been the staple action of all idle humans.
“Hey, sorry for the wait!” A feminine voice snaps him out of his stare.
He acts flustered, but he saw her in the reflection. He didn’t like the wait, but he smiled anyways.
As he was getting up to leave, he couldn’t help but notice a familiar face coming in to the cafe. He studied their face for a few seconds. Oh, shit. A classmate – one that he sometimes talks to, at that. Not close enough to message each other outside of working together, but familiar enough to recognize each other’s faces.
What can he do? Ignore them? Walk out as quickly as possible? That would draw too much attention, he thought. He wouldn’t be able to get out quickly enough. Could he pass by slowly? Maybe. Or maybe she – the classmate – would see his face. Then he’d have to awkwardly greet them as he walks out.
The best course of action is always to remain unseen. He put on his jacket a lot slower than usual. Then he checked his zippers. She hadn’t turned around yet. Shit. She was coming this way.
There was no choice but to face his fear head-on.