Why You Shouldn't Have Gone in the First Place
by Samantha Schoech
do not drive to Vallejo to meet him halfway. Even if your life feels airless and you haven't been laid since you called it off with him two months ago. First of all, you've had two glasses of red wine and it probably isn't a good idea to drive on a freeway that will be crowded even on a Sunday night. Secondly, although Vallejo sounds funny and adventurous at first, campy even, when you arrive at Rod's Hickory Pit, fuzzy with anticipation and misgiving, it will be a sleazy, depressing place, made no less so by your impending tryst. Asian gang members will be playing pool in the bar and the two other women in there, one with hot pants on, will be taking turns singing old Madonna songs on the karaoke stage. It will be the kind of thing you would laugh about under different circumstances.
Because you will arrive first, you will spend at least ten minutes worrying that he is not going to show up. And even though he will eventually show up, the fact that you have had to entertain the thought of being humiliatingly stood up will lodge in your consciousness next to the vows you made in college about sisterhood and not sleeping with men in relationships.
You will stand outside smoking, scanning the parking lot and watching the headlights whisk by on highway 80. When you ask one of the Asian gang members for a light he will say, "I was wondering when you were going to talk to me." You will pretend not to hear him and drift over to the far side of the cement landing between the parking lot and the lobby entrance. Through the restaurant window you will watch a family move slowly through the buffet. They will be the only people eating and the sight of them will make you feel lonely. You will smoke furiously, which will do nothing for your pounding heart.
When he gets there, he will be driving her white sedan and you'll let your mind land on that fact for an uncomfortable second before you smile and wait for him to meet you on the landing. As soon as you see him, you will realize that the whole thing was mistake. He'll want to go back into the bar for a beer and you'll go and do all the talking while he grins anxiously at you and squeezes your knee and says nothing. The whole time you will tell yourself silently that you are over him, that you only met him up here at this ridiculous place as a lark. Just two friends having a late-night adventure. That's what you'll call it: an adventure. The two of you will smirk at the euphemism.
After only half a beer, you will begin to feel flirty, take his hand and, against your better judgment, suggest a room at the Motel 6. Before he agrees, hesitation will flash on his face briefly, but long enough for it to register. You will know for the rest of the night that the motel room was your idea. Even when he pays for it, you will feel a bit like a huntress, which is the opposite of feeling wanted, and contrary to the whole point of dating a married man.
Don't drive to Vallejo because after all the anticipation the sex will be mediocre and he will suffer a very unattractive anxiety attack about becoming the kind of man he has already become. You'll lie there in the stale smoke and disinfectant smell listening to the mysterious clunkings of the upstairs guests wondering why in the hell you are there. And when he asks if it would bother you terribly if he went home that night, it is, after all, so much easier to sleep in his own bed, you will say yes, that it does bother you. And so he will stay, but reluctantly, and the whole night, listening to the motel pool filter and the sound of him not sleeping, will only remind you of why you shouldn't have gone in the first place.
Samantha Schoech's fiction has appeared in Seventeen, The Sun, and Glimmer Train, among other publications. She is co-editor of the anthology Tied in Knots: Funny Stories from the Wedding Day (Seal, 2006).
Ed. note: this story first appeared in our autumn 2001 issue and will be included in the anthology Flash Fiction Forward (Norton, 2006).