I have to cancel. I have to. He’ll hate me, but I can live with that. Maybe. I mean, what kind of bitch cancels a coffee date? Me, apparently. He’s so nice though, so sweet and kind and honest. Honest. So I should be honest too, right?
I could go and then tell him. When he asks if I had a good time—No, definitely not when he asks if I had a good time, that would be devastating. Besides, we could have a good time.
He’ll ask if we can go out again sometime—that’s how this goes, I think—I can do it then. Say I’m not sure. Say I think I like the way things are right now and I’m not sure if I want to push them any further.
But what if he goes to hold my hand or hug me or—what if he tries to kiss me before I can explain? I guess I could let him hold my hand. He’s so nice. I might even let him hug me. I can still explain my feelings after that, right? But what if he goes in for the kiss? Do people ask if they can kiss you before they try to kiss you? Or do they just try?
I don’t want him to ask, and I don’t want him to try.
I don’t think he would. It’s just a first date. It’s just coffee. That’s what everyone keeps telling me.
But we talk so easily and get along so well, he might get the wrong idea. Suppose he thinks it went well enough to go in for a kiss?
I’ll go and be casual. Just two friends having coffee. No biggie.
Except it’s not just two friends. It’s two friends having coffee to get to know each other to possibly pursue something more. At least, one friend has that intent.
He obviously likes me. I hate that I know that. I don’t mean to egg it on. The conversation flows, and it’s nice to be noticed sometimes. But then I notice him watching me excitedly tell him a story, looking at me like I’m a goddamned Disney princess and he’s the prince that’s finally found me.
Half the time I don’t even know if he’s actually listening to me. It like he’s just enthralled in watching me speak. But then again, I know he listens because he remembers every fucking detail. It’s maddening. The princess isn’t supposed to feel like this. I’d like to see Walt make a movie out of this one. Now that would be interesting.
If he could act like he doesn’t think I’m that big of a deal, it’d help so much. He’d probably try to DTR tonight if he wouldn’t think it would scare me off; he so invested already.
No. It’s just coffee. And I’ll have coffee breath. No one wants to kiss coffee breath, right?
But what if he doesn’t mind coffee breath? What if he still tries to kiss me? What if I let him hug me, and then he tries to kiss me? Imagine.
We leave the coffee shop. It’s closing. The street is dark. He’ll walk me to my car. I’ll lean against it. I need to wash my car.
I’ll lean against it, trying not to think about all the dirt getting on my clothes, only trying to create some distance. He’ll try to hug me, and I guess I’ll let him—he’s so nice. I’ll try to break away from it quick enough to let him know that I don’t want anything else.
But what if my subliminal hints are too subliminal? What if he doesn’t stop hugging me? Like in the movies, I’ll pull back, but he’ll still have my arms in his bear hands and he’ll try to make firm, romantic eye contact, which I will avoid at all cost. Maybe then he’ll ask if he can. Or he might just try. Maybe he’ll think I’m just nervous. Then what? I’m pressed against my car with his body blocking my only path.
Maybe leaning against my car was the wrong idea. He probably thought it meant I wanted him to linger a while. Okay. So leaning against the car was definitely a bad idea.
That’s it. I’m cancelling. I’ll be a bitch and cancel. I could say I’m sick. My brain obviously is so it wouldn’t necessarily be a lie.
No, I can’t say I’m sick. He would know. Then I’d really be the bitch that used a lousy excuse. I would never be able to look him in the eyes again.
Okay, so instead I’ll open my car door and stand there—no, that still leaves too much room for interpretation. I’ll sit in my car with the door open.
But then he might lean against the open door, one hand above my window, the other gripping the top edge of my car. And again I’ve left myself nowhere to go. He’ll lean in and try to kiss me—there isn’t even space for the subliminal hug. He’ll try to kiss me and I’ll duck or turn my head or who knows what and I’ll have to see the confusion on his face followed by the hurt even as he tries to justify my actions.
He’ll know. He’ll know the speech that will come next. I just don’t see him that way. He’s amazing, and he’s going to make some girl really happy—No. What is wrong with you? You can’t say that. That’s the bitchiest move you’ve made yet.
What if I sit in my car and put my keys in the ignition? Even better, I could leave my hand on the keys, ready to start my car.
Surely that would make it clear, right? Surely he wouldn’t try to make a move then.
But if he does? Maybe he’s not as observant as he fancies himself to be. I could always start my car if I see him try to make a move.
Oh, God. That’s awful. Can you imagine how bad that would make him feel? How would I even explain that?
God, I can’t do this.
Stop. Stop. I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t even gone through the date yet. I can leave hints the whole way through.
I could start by paying for my own coffee. Walk in, say hi to everyone, have the baristas brew up my usual. He’ll have to debate his order anyway. He’s never been here.
So I’ll pay—he won’t let me pay; I know that. And this is technically a date after all. Though I could sneak Melody my card—she could probably even sign my name at this point—while he decides on this order.
I don’t know. I should probably let him pay. He might think I’m insulting him, like he can’t afford to buy me a coffee.
What’s so wrong with paying for my own coffee? I can’t let him pay for my coffee knowing how I’m going to try to end this thing.
Whatever, I’ll deal with that later.
We get our drinks and sit. I know the place so I’ll pick the table. Definitely not the back with its partition and dark lighting. We’ll sit up front by the big window with its high barstools. Nothing romantic about it. That’ll be hint one.
Of course in these chairs there’s no way to shift my feet. It’s a sign of interest if your toes point in the direction of the person speaking. I guess there’s no way around that one.
But I can always shift if I see someone I know come in. I can turn to them, shifting my feet and torso, as if inviting them to join our table, give them my attention. I could even put my chin on my hand and listen, never introducing them to him.
That’s too harsh. I have to at least introduce him, but only by name.
And I have to remember not to lean in to the table when he’s speaking. That’s a sure fire sign of interest. He’ll take that and run with it.
Those are plenty of hints, right?
Those are terrible hints. This is never going to work. Which is worse: to give him a horrible time or give him no time at all?
Forget it. I’m cancelling.
How do I cancel?
I do have a lot of homework to do. He knows school’s important to me. That’s a valid excuse, right? I just can’t afford to spend that kind of time on anything other than schoolwork right now.
God, that’s awful. I’m equating human interaction to time spent reading and highlighting in textbooks. Actually, not equating, I’m comparing and giving the latter much more value. Because I’m that bitch. I’m that bitch in the movies that’s forty and successful and busy with a failing social life.
I should probably go. That’s how the movie ends anyway, right? The only way she becomes truly happy is by finding him. I should go.
I should have said no in the first place.
Why didn’t I say no? I panicked. He’s so nice. I couldn’t stand to watch his face drop as I formed the word “no.” I could see his nerves in my hesitation then I got to watch the relief flood his face as my mouth said “yes” practically without my permission. The relief that stretched itself through his body as he breathed and laughed. His excitement radiated and he tried to play it off, act cool, all while I felt regret fill my own body and my heart clinch with dread. Now look at what I’ve gotten myself into.
Start over. He tries to kiss you. You refuse. He’s hurt. Now, explain.
Okay. I’ll tell him how much I enjoy hanging out with him. I’ll tell him how awesome he is, funny and smart, the works—all honest, perhaps a tad exaggerated but this is tough stuff, better to beef someone up first anyway. I’ll tell him how much I enjoy talking to him and how relieving it is find an honest guy. I’ll tell him how nice I think he is. But of course he’ll take that as an insult. Nice guys get the shaft apparently. Whatever. I’ll say it again anyway. He’s so nice, and it’s one of the things I like best about him. Then he’ll be pissed and I’ll be the bitch. The bitch who put him in the God-forsaken friendzone.
What is so wrong with the friendzone? What is so wrong with simply wanting to enjoy someone’s company?
I consider adding someone to the friendzone a compliment. After all, it means that I want to keep them around. It means that I enjoy them and trust them. It doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a relationship, just tucks it safely away for now. But apparently that makes me a bitch.
And am I a bitch if I say no? Am I a bitch if I ask him to be my friend and ask for nothing more? If I want nothing from him, but my explanation is not valid enough? Is my explanation not valid enough? Does it have to be? Can’t I simply say no and let that be it?
Why do I have to explain how awesome a person is before saying and explaining—always explaining— why I say no? Why do I have to explain? Why do I have to show how it’s my fault? That I’m the one who’s not ready for a relationship.
And heaven forbid I get into a relationship too soon after saying that. Then I’m really just a bitch that rejected him. Thus, the friendzone dilemma rearises. Because his hopes for the friendzone were really to get out of it as quickly as he got into it.
I never wanted to go on this date in the first place. There. Is that what you wanted? Is that what everyone wanted? For me to admit that I never wanted to say yes. That when he asked me out I only said yes because I felt cornered. I didn’t have time to prepare. I felt like I had to say yes because I had flirted a little, and maybe I had given some mixed signals.
Not to mention my friends—scared that I’ll end up alone, always telling me that I should give people a chance. I’m supposed to have some kind of experience by now. Maybe they’re right. This is all my fault. I’m the one who always says no.
Why didn’t I just say no?
He’s cute, but I’m not attracted to him.
Great, there I go being a bitch again and making excuses for rejecting people. It’s not him; it’s clearly me because only guys can make judgement calls based on looks, right? It’s just shallow and mean when I do it.
But of course, I can’t say any of that. I throw my phone onto my bed. What can I say?
This isn’t what I wanted. I just wanted to be his friend. I might have flirted some, but I didn’t mean to. I only went along with his flirtations because it seemed harmless. I accepted compliments, and suddenly he felt like it was his job to validate me. I don’t need him to validate me. I just enjoy talking to him. And now I can’t even do that because he wants more, and I’m not willing to give it.
I’m a bitch no matter what I say. I’m a bitch no matter what I do. This isn’t easy for me, you know?
I’ll just cancel. I’ll be a bitch and cancel. He’ll hate me, and I’ll say I’m sorry.
So what could I do instead? Read perhaps. Maybe write. Sleep would be nice.
He’ll probably text me. And keep texting me. Asking what’s wrong, what he did, what he can do. Saying he didn’t mean to pressure me or make me feel uncomfortable. Tell me how he just wanted to have coffee and spend some time with me. I might ignore him, at least for tonight. Or maybe I’ll talk to him, explain, and we can reach an understanding. Maybe I’ll apologize and tell him I have too much going on right now. I might tell him I don’t want to talk about it tonight but maybe some other time we could.
I’m cancelling. There’s no way around it. I’ll try to mind his feelings, but tonight I’ll take care of myself first. I’m sorry if that means I’m a bitch.
I grab my phone— my phone that he helped fix when it bugged out, my old phone that he always picked at me for—and type, “Hey, can we take a rain check on that coffee? I can’t tonight. I’m so sorry.”
And if that makes me a bitch, I do not apologize.
Emily Fontenot is a graduate assistant working on her MA in the Creative Writing program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her fiction has been published in The Southwestern Review. She is the assistant fiction editor for Rougarou, UL Lafayette’s graduate literary journal. Most of her work contains interest in race and gender relations as well as the complexities mental health issues. She is currently working on a longer piece drawing inspiration from recent natural disasters and the small Louisiana town she grew up in. Follow her on Twitter— @EmilyReece16.