I step onto the sidewalk and breathe deeply, once...twice. It’s nearly summertime in New York City, and the weather is absolutely gorgeous. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before the city becomes unbearably muggy and hot, but I love it anyways and thank my lucky stars that I’m able to live in such an incredible metropolis.
As I walk towards Bar Americaine to meet my boyfriend Danny, the muted chatter of people filling the sidewalks is strangely comforting. The sidewalks are congested today because people want to enjoy the weather, and so everyone’s out. Not to mention the number of dogs prancing around too! Okay, I love canines as much as the next person, but doing the merengue to avoid steaming piles of doggie doo-doo is definitely not one of my favorite things.
As I near the restaurant, my phone rings. I fumble around in my bottomless bag trying to find it before I miss the call.
“Hello?” I answer, a little frazzled.
“Rachel! Hey, girl. Where are you?” Laurelin Connor, aka my best friend, asks on the other end of the line.
“I’m on my way to meet Danny for lunch. Why, where are you?”
My buddy lets out an exaggerated sigh.
“I’m at home with the baby, but that’s not important at the moment because you, girlfriend, have important things to focus on. Are you still planning on talking to Danny today about you-know-what?”
This seems to be an ever-present topic of conversation over the past few weeks, and I know what Laurelin’s getting at. I’ve been with my boyfriend, Danny, for three years now, but it feels like a lot longer. We know each other so well that when he sneezes, I can feel my nose itch. As a result, I want to take our relationship to the next level. It makes sense, after all. We’re both solid in our careers and more than able to sustain a major life change. Honestly, he should suck it up at this point and just buy me a ring. But a chill runs down my spine and I bite my lip.
“Yes, today’s the day. I’m nervous, though.”
“Nervous?” Laurelin parrots. “But why?”
I shrug like she can see me through the phone and mumble, “I don’t know. I’ve just been getting weird vibes from Danny for a couple of days. He’s been a little distant. He never answers the phone when I call, but then, he’ll call me back within the hour. It’s weird, right? I mean, how many times can you be in the shower or at the stove? It’s strange, but he says it’s because he’s busy at work and really trying to make a good impression.”
Laurelin’s silent for a moment.
“Do you think he’s telling the truth?” she asks.
I sigh. “I really hope so. I mean, I know Danny’s job can be a little stressful because NYU is a premier university. You know he does IT for them, so he’s responsible for their computer networks and that’s a lot of pressure.”
Laurelin makes a clucking noise because I know she hears the tremble in my voice.
“Try not to worry, sweetie. I’m sure everything is fine. Just relax and everything will go smoothly. By the way, do you want to come by afterwards and see your favorite friend and her adorable baby boy?” my bestie wheedles.
I smile. I love baby Jamie almost as much as I love his mother. “Of course! I’ll text when I’m on the way. Love you, Laure.”
“Love you too, girlie!”
With that, we hang up and I take a deep breath. Today is the day when I take my relationship to the next level, but what if it goes awry? What if Danny says no and doesn’t want to get more serious? I think I’d die but there’s only one way to find out.
I walk into the restaurant and spot Danny at a table in the middle of the restaurant. He doesn’t see me right away because his face is buried in his phone, but that’s not out of the ordinary. But he does seem jittery, and maybe even a little nervous. His leg is shaking from his heel bouncing against the stained concrete floors, making a slight tap-tap-tap sound.
Then I see him smile at his phone, and the smile is bright -- much brighter than anything he’s directed at me lately. He chuckles a bit before putting away his cell, and then looks around. I wonder what he was looking at?
Then, Danny surveys the room, sees me, and his smile falters a bit. Meanwhile, I wave and in reply, he raises his hand half-heartedly. Ugh, this doesn’t seem too promising, and my stomach rolls just a little.
Quit overthinking things. He’s probably just overwhelmed at work, just like he said, the voice in my mind speaks. I tell the host that I’m meeting someone, and the middle-aged man barely looks up, merely waving me through. Then I wend my way through the strategically placed tables. Bar Americaine is nice with rattan chairs, small round tables, and the vibe of a French bistro. The dining room isn’t overly full, but there are definitely quite a few diners enjoying their meals.