I was fidgety that whole weekend. I couldn’t concentrate on a thing for more than two minutes. After work Saturday night, I stayed up late shooting zombies on the PlayStation, and I was useless on Sunday. Paulie and I had a meeting at the bank that Monday, and we did more market research the rest of the day, so I had to wait an extra day before possibly seeing Francesca again. This was brand new territory, and I didn’t know what to do now. Everyone at work likes to gossip too much, so I couldn’t tell any of them what happened, and customers (as a rule) don’t want to hear about the bartender’s problems. Even if I’d had someone to talk to, I couldn’t have described the situation clearly.
You probably think Paulie knew about her from the start. I wanted to tell him every time I saw him, but I didn’t. He wasn’t keeping any secrets from you. For one thing, he was such a fan of you and me. Also, my crush on Francesca was like a hidden treasure. It wasn’t just incredible, it was magical. If I told anyone, maybe it would turn out to be an illusion.
I had done it. I’d crossed the line and cheated on you. I could pretend I hadn’t – and that was my plan – but the truth was there, and I couldn’t undo it. Of course I felt guilty. There was so much going on in my head at the time, though. I was more concerned with what was going to happen next than whether it was a good thing or a bad thing. Even if the reality didn’t exactly match the fantasies I’d been having, the important thing was that it was real now. I’d gotten what I wanted, unexpectedly, against the odds. I’d put so much energy into dreaming about being with her for the past two months, and then it actually happened. It made me think about how random everything is. Your plans fit into someone else’s plans on one side and another person’s plans on another side, and our lives go rumbling along through the world, hooked together, like some big, crazy machine.
I was also wondering if I’d see Francesca again, now that she knew about you. Would she come back to the apartment, or would I only see her at What Might Have Bean? If that was the only time we’d have sex, would she want to talk about why it couldn’t happen again? Would I try to change her mind? Could I say something about a man stranded in the desert who finds an oasis?
She’d said she wanted to think about it … so maybe I still had a chance. Or maybe she decided it was a stupid idea as soon as she got back outside, and I didn’t have a chance. If I asked her if I’d see her again, maybe it would just piss her off and make me look like a fool. You know I don’t waste much time worrying about what people think of me, but for those three or four days, this was just about the only thing that mattered. On some level, it wasn’t Francesca herself as much as the idea of her that I was chasing. I didn’t know much about her yet. If she was through with me, maybe I never would. Keeping what happened a secret from you was just one more marble rattling around with the rest of them.