Snakes and Pills

119 - grid

His car pulled into the tight parking space, and he flicked the keys to the off position. The engine came to a rest, and he checked his watch. Four forty-two. Damnit, he thought, why am I here so early? He was always early.

The car door swung open slowly, careful not to hit the car in the adjacent space. They had reorganized this parking lot a year or so ago, in order to fit more cars into the same area. Now, it was all too close. He had hit someone's door once. It wasn't a huge dent, but it was a dent, and it had chipped some paint off, too.

He didn't leave any information on that car, in fact all he had done was immediately turn his car back on and drive away. He couldn't have afforded to fix it, anyhow. Nothing ever came of it, but he had always felt guilty about it, so from that point on, he was careful here.

Safely out of his vehicle, he slammed the door shut and made his way across the lot to the big bookstore which was the primary tenant in this little strip mall. The place where he was meeting her, too.

The cool, conditioned air greeted him as he pulled the glass door open and wandered in through the entrance. He took the bookstore in, and while he still regretted coming so early, there were certainly worse places in the world to kill twenty minutes. His favorite area to browse was the military history section, but he was afraid that if she ended up finding him there, it would come off as too geeky.

Instead, he opted to just browse through the magazines right by the entrance. Magazines were cool enough, right? But as he thumbed through a random selection of periodicals, he couldn't find anything to really catch his interest or at least distract him from the frenzied beating of his heart. He looked at his watch. Only four minutes had passed. And good god, why were his hands so sweaty?

He decided to just wander around, but after he rounded the corner of a bookshelf, he felt a strong sense of regret. Roger and Keith, two acquaintances from school, made eye contact with him.

"Hey man, what's up?" Keith greeted him. He didn't have strong feelings either way about these two, but right now his nerves were so shot that he wasn't sure how much ability he would have for small talk. And what little ability he had, he wanted to save. "Not much, just killing some time here. You?" he responded.

"Same, same," Keith said. "Well, alright then, catch you tomorrow in gym," he continued, and then the two boys carried on to wherever they were going. Small miracle, he thought, breathing a quick solitary sigh of relief.

His head swiveled to take in his surroundings, when he saw her at the door. She's here. He confirmed that this was all not a hallucination: she actually was there. A strange sense of excitement mixed with an absolutely primal fear welled up in him. He had little experience with this feeling, but at the moment he was certain it was as intense as humanly possible.

Then she noticed him, and started heading towards him. The feeling doubled. There was nothing he could do but stand there, petrified and sweaty, hoping his instincts and reflexes could carry him through.

"Hey," she said. "Been waiting long?"

He goofily looked at his watch, pretending he actually had the capacity at that moment to tell time or even remember his name. He grinned.

"No, not at all. I just got here."


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