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Submitted on 07/09/2020

Categories: General

When I first met John, I knew he was something special. After a rough ending to a rocky relationship, looking for love was not a priority. Dating again was far from important, because I wanted to work on myself first. Finding another partner was the last thing I needed. Allen was future husband material in the beginning, but changed about ten months into our time together. I ended the relationship exactly one year after we became a couple. My standards were lowered from then on. So when I met John, it felt like I was living in one of my sweetest dreams. He was charming, handsome, and everything I wanted in a partner. We met a little over four months after Allen and I parted ways, which ended up being perfect timing. 

“Barbara’s Bar” was the finest establishment for drinking downtown and I would drop by every so often to have a drink and catch up with the employees. Xavier, Wendy, Jamie, Harvey, and Leah were the five I knew the best. When I saw none of them on a quiet Saturday night, I was surprised. Sure, the place was close to empty and one or two employees could do the job. But I quickly missed their company and craved conversing with them. Harvey would have most likely told me about how night school was going, Wendy probably would sneak out for a smoke when no one was looking, Jamie would have definitely stayed quiet until something reminded him of one of his dogs, Leah was a listener and great at giving advice, and Xavier would have had trouble keeping his mouth closed, because talking was what kept him sane. I sighed after Barbara, the owner, told me that none of my favorite bartenders were going to be there that night. She did mention that she hired a new bartender, but I did not care about that very much. Chatting with one of my favorite bartenders was an activity I had looked forward to all day.

“What’s the name of the new guy? The one who is working tonight, I mean.” Despite wanting someone else to be working that night, Barbara had sparked my curiosity. Hiring new employees was rare for her.

She poured me a glass of wine and answered, “John Quinn. He’s not new to this job, so he should do just fine. Actually, I met him while he was working at a popular bar in Brooklyn. He made a great first impression and he can make a mean drink. I told him to keep in touch with me if he ever needed a change of scenery. Not everyone wants to be in the big city.”

“Oh, Barbara, I know what you mean.” I sipped some wine from the glass and whispered, “Did I tell you that Allen moved to Atlanta? There was an opening somewhere for some stupid job and he hurried out. That’s what my sister’s friend told me.”

She took a deep breath and responded, “Sabrina, I am glad he is out of here. I hope he’s gone for good. I don’t know what you saw in him.”

I laughed and agreed, “Trust me, I don’t either!”

“Wait, I’ve got to get John out here. I think he just got here. He’s a little late, but we are not the easiest to find. Just a second, sweet cheeks.”

Everyone loved Barbara because she treated everyone with kindness and had the rare ability of being able to diffuse any situation. That did not mean, however, that she was not tough enough to run a bar. The bar was very special to her, like a baby. As a matter of fact, she often called it her baby. While waiting for her to come back with John, I looked at the empty seats next to me. Normally there would be others, strangers or friends, drinking with me. Seeing the last few people leave the bar was depressing. Being alone in the large room felt suffocating. Oddly enough, I had never felt more alone. So when I heard two sets of footsteps growing louder, I let out a massive sigh of relief. Truthfully, I was not at all looking forward to meeting John. Every unfamiliar bartender brought me some level of unexplainable anxiety. But that changed when I saw him and Barbara enter the room. Right away, I was drawn to him and felt comforted by his presence.

He looked at Barbara and said, “So this is the woman that you talked about.” He carefully stuck his arm across the bar and we shook hands. “I’m John Quinn. I’m the new guy.”

I blushed and replied, “It’s really nice to meet you, John. I’m Sabrina Powell, I’m the regular.”

And that is where it all began. After my drink was made and Barbara was gone, we started to talk about everything that came to mind. His life was not one that was at all out of the ordinary, but he somehow managed to fascinate me. Never before had I been so interested in the life of a bartender. We were immediately attracted to each other, the natural chemistry between us was undeniable. We left together at closing time and took public transport together. John got off the subway at the last stop but before doing so, he nervously asked me for my phone number. I wrote it down and told him to text me at any time, especially if he needed help getting around the city. He thanked me and almost right away, he sent me a photo of his work schedule. As ridiculous as it sounds, I went to see him at work as much as possible. Tuesday through Thursday after work I would stay there until I felt tired and on the Saturdays he worked, I made my way over to Barbara‘s Bar. Before he would arrive, the other employees I knew were surprised to see me arrive at the end of their shifts. Pretty much immediately after John began working there, the other employees figured out why I was always there. They teased me about it, but I did not care. My feelings for him were strong. So strong, in fact, that I did not pick up on his worst flaw until much later. I never paid any attention to people complaining about his repetitive tardiness, because I was looking around for him.

After one month of flirting and an embarrassing level of admiration, he asked me out on our first date. I was excited and relieved to know that this great man had feelings for me as well. We talked about where to go and agreed on one of the best Italian restaurants in the area. I said I would meet him there at six o’ clock a few days from then and that was that. On that Saturday evening, I arrived fifteen minutes before the date was to begin. It was no problem though, I did not mind. My early arrival allowed some time to triple check my hair and makeup. Five minutes before our date was to begin, I walked into the restaurant. To my dismay, I noticed right away that John was not waiting inside for me. I tried my best to not think anything of it, because I was early. When it was six, my mind created explanations, most of them reasonable. Ten minutes later, the panic set in. I was sitting in the waiting area for fifteen minutes at that point and the situation was getting embarrassing. Never before had I been so worried that someone would not show up to a first date. Finally, twenty minutes after our date was supposed to start, he arrived.

John hugged me and said, “Hi there, Sabrina. You didn’t have to wait for me.”

I was upset, but I did not want our date to turn sour. I smiled and lied, “It’s fine. I wasn’t here for long anyways.”

Fortunately for me, our first date was worth the wait. Everything about it, besides having to wait for him, was great. I quickly forgot about how irritated I was and when he asked if I would like to go on another date, I replied with an enthusiastic “yes”. We agreed on meeting at a small diner, which was near where I worked, during my lunch break one day. I practically ran over to the diner in excitement. In my mind, I was only able to think about it getting better. His previous tardiness was something I saw as a “one time thing”. Before choosing my own table, I paced around the building, trying to find him. He was not there and his car was not anywhere to be seen. I slumped down into the booth and chose to wait for him, which ended up being a mistake. Five minutes before I was due back at work, John walked in the diner and over to the table. I was relieved that I brought lunch to work. Immediately after he sat down, I needed to go back to work. I did not know if his behavior frustrated or saddened me more. Honestly, I was in denial. He was still Mr. Perfect in my mind. Deep down though, I knew this would happen again. And I was right. Our third, fourth, and fifth dates were scheduled for three days after work within a week after our second date. John was late to all of them, of course. The employees of the cafe picked up on my dilemma and I could tell that they were not impressed by John and neither was I. Dates were not the only commitments he was never on time for. Other times that I needed him desperately also had the same results. It did not matter if it was storming outside or if I broke a heel. The man was never on time. Texting him or calling him about it always ended up being ineffective.

One day, I decided to confide in my best friend, Marie, about John’s problem. I ranted for several minutes, but she listened to each and every word. After I finished explaining what was going on, she asked, “Sabrina, no offense, but why are you still with him? It sounds like he’s really bothering you and it sounds like you’re too impatient for him. I mean, I would be too! You and I both know that you deserve better.”

Marie was right, like always. Out of all of my friends, she was usually the wisest. I sighed and reluctantly admitted, “Ugh, Marie, you’re right. I’ll tell you why I like him so much if you don’t call me dumb.”

“Sabrina, I promise I won’t insult you. This is serious, remember?”

“Okay, thanks Marie.” I gulped and knew I had no choice but to tell my best friend the truth. “Well, it was great at the beginning. Back then, I could only name great qualities about him. But now that’s different. He still makes me happy, but he irritates me more. Please don’t diss this answer, because I am embarrassed enough.” I paused and contemplated how to continue from then. The answer was simple, yet humiliating. Marie deserved to know the truth, especially after listening to me complain. “I can’t dump him because he’s really cute.”

Marie rubbed her forehead and I knew she was frustrated. Looking back, I am frustrated when I think about how I was in my mid twenties. Over time, John had lost his charm and it was obvious. Secretly I felt like I would never find love after John, but I had too much pride to admit it. She hesitated before exclaiming, “Sabrina, you are so stubborn! I am sorry to say this, but you are stubborn and stupid. Sure, the man is nice to look at. I agree! He’s cute, but that doesn’t excuse his behavior. Is it worth waiting an hour for him because he’s cute?”

“You’re right, it really isn’t worth it. I’ll end it the next time he’s not on time, I promise.”

I broke that promise not only once, but eight damn times. The day after I talked with Marie, John was twenty minutes late for a movie date. Twenty minutes after the movie itself began, I mean. It was a movie that I had waited for nearly half a year to see. I decided to save us some seats, so I texted him and let him know that I was already inside. When he finally arrived, he walked around the theater to find me. He talked to other people in the audience, to see if any of them were me. Unfortunately, I chose to sit in the back row. His voice somehow managed to boom throughout the theater. I did not know whether or not to sink into my seat or find him but after a couple of minutes, I waved with both hands and he found me. Naturally, as soon as he sat down, he asked, “So what did I miss?”

The next time I was supposed to see John was for dinner at my parents’ house. My parents were very excited to meet him. At first, I positively described him to my family and gushed about him like a schoolgirl. We agreed to meet at seven, but I told my parents 7:30 because I knew he would be late. That night, he showed up shortly after eight. Let’s just say that my parents were not impressed and I was disappointed as well. Towards the end of our dinner, my father asked me to help him in the kitchen. When I started to load the dishwasher, he whispered, “How are you able to deal with that? Really honey? You deserve better than him.”

By the time our relationship ended, I had heard that same statement numerous times. “You deserve better.” I started to believe it more each time someone said it to me. What was going on became more unacceptable when I noticed how late he was to work. Poor Barbara would have to sometimes work the bar by herself on Friday nights because John was two hours late. The worst part about that was he never gave Barbara any warnings about being late and he also never offered any explanations as to why he was never on time. When Barbara admitted that she was going to be firing John soon, my heart sunk. And when she told me that I deserved better, I knew I needed to break up with him as soon as possible. I asked him to meet me at the restaurant where we had our first date. Once again, I told him an earlier time, thirty minutes before our reservation. That did not matter though, because he was thirty minutes late anyways. Based on our plans, he was an hour late. That was the last straw.

He walked towards the table and tried to kiss my cheek. I turned my head and knew ripping off the bandaid was the best option in this case. As soon as he sat down, I decided it was time to end things for good. Finally, I confessed, “John, I‘m sorry. I just can’t do this anymore.”

He nearly choked on his water before stuttering, “Wait, what are you saying? Sabrina, I thought we were happy together.”

“We were.” I rolled my eyes at how naive he was. His oblivion was unbelievable. “But I’m more of an impatient type than a happy one.”

He mumbled, “What do you mean by that?” His voice cracked and he was clearly upset, but that did not matter to me. I needed to do what was best.

I replied, “John, you’ll figure that out sometime. Trust me. But maybe you’ll have to wait for that. Then you’ll be the one waiting for once.”

It was not my intention to be dramatic, but my actions were out of my control. From then on, I acted out of impulse. So I stormed out of the restaurant and cried, with no shame whatsoever. In the beginning of our love story, I did not think it was going to end. I thought the fairytale would only get more magical. Towards the end of it all, I wanted the story to be over with more than anything. That night was one of my worst and when it began to rain heavily, I felt more pathetic than ever before. I knew I needed to go to Barbara‘s and speak with her. By the time I arrived, rainwater from my coat was dripping onto the floor. Xavier was working that night and brought me a clean towel from the kitchen. He sighed and said, “Rough night?”

I groaned, “You don’t even want to know.”

Shortly after that moment, I felt a tap on my shoulder. A tall man with light green eyes was standing behind me and asked, “Are you okay?”

Then I began to sob. Later that night, I thought about that man and was embarrassed that I vented all of my problems to a stranger. The next night, I decided to go to the bar and the kind man was there again. We talked, but the conversation was more upbeat this time. I found out that his name was Derek Walton and three years later, I became Sabrina Walton. Although I ultimately regretted dating John, he sort of led me to my husband and I’m extremely thankful for that. I never appreciated him being late until our last night. Derek is everything that Allen and John were never capable of being. And best of all, Derek is always on time.

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2 comments

Grace M'mbone
18:25 Jul 26, 2020

I'm glad that the protagonist settles in the end and appreciates that had she never met John,then she probably would never have gotten to know Derek. Your story has lessons the reader can pick up and a fellow writer too. Lovely. Keep it up Natalie.

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09:46 Jul 27, 2020

Thanks so much for reading this story as well and commenting on it! I am glad you enjoyed it :)

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