White Rabbit running

“You’re always late,” your girlfriend told you. “It’s like you’re afraid of showing up early. What would be so bad about being three minutes early?”

Today you’re meeting her for brunch, and to show that you listen and that you value her, you try to show up ten minutes early. Of course this only makes you three minutes early, which is what you’d secretly hoped.

You give your name to the hostess and stand awkwardly in the doorway. A waitress brushes past, spilling coffee on you. You retreat to the wall, pressing your hands against it.

The hostess tells you the wait will actually be a half hour.

You start to text your girlfriend — This place is swamped, let’s meet at — but an exiting customer bumps the phone out of your hand and, while trying to retrieve it, stomps on it. It’s cracked in two. He says “sorry” and shrugs, as if thus ends his responsibility, and he is gone. You don’t follow him; you have to be here when she arrives or you’ll forfeit the victory points. You’ll just have to wait patiently like an adult.

You’ve daydreamed for thirty seconds when you finally notice the panic spreading from the back of the restaurant. Your ears are ringing; you didn’t notice the explosion.

The block is quickly evacuated. Only two minutes have passed since you arrived, but now you’re being herded out of the area. Survivors and rubberneckers are merging into one mob.

You walk two miles to her home, sit on the front stoop, and you wait. An hour later, you decide she may have done the same, and you return to your own home. At least there you’ll be back in communication.

At 11 PM, she finally answers your emails. After playing actual tag all day, she’s relieved to connect with you, but oddly quiet. You press her. She admits that during her trips around the city, pushing through angry crowds, lines of police, subjected to multiple pat-downs at checkpoints, she deeply analyzed her fears about you, realizing that more than anything else, she was worried how long you’d survive without her. After all, you can’t even show up on time.

You argue with her — you were early! This whole mess wouldn’t have happened if — but it comes across too harsh over IM, and she resolves on something she’d been considering all day. i think it’s best if i gave you some time alone to get your shit together. She hits “block” because she knows that discipline is built by avoiding temptation.

Three days later, after half your hair comes out in the shower, you learn about the radiation poisoning. You, and everyone else who was in the restaurant, have a month left. Unless death shows up late.


Format stolen from Mallory Ortberg’s “So You’ve Decided” series on Slacktory and The Hairpin.

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