Tomorrow, she will talk to him and explain that it was all a big misunderstanding. Right now, she was too exhausted to think any more, simply tired and ready to go to sleep. It was a mistake anyway to try and pack in a meeting with him at the end of such a long day today.
Today had actually started yesterday, when she boarded the long transatlantic flight. She never understood why people referred to the New York – London trip as “hopping across the pond”. It must be shallow bravado among the so-called road warriors. The uncomfortable seven hour journey wedged in the middle and towards the back of a packed airplane filled with crying babies, raucous school children on a trip, slowly shuffling seniors, tourists and people of considerable girth (one of whom had lodged himself right next to her) was not her idea of hopping across anything. She made a mental note to ask if she could fly business class if this pond-hopping was going to become a requirement for her during the discussions tomorrow.
It was her first trip to London. As she got into the taxi at Heathrow she immediately noticed how they drove on the “wrong side” of the road. But once she got to Central London it was in so many ways familiar to her daily life in New York: noisy, crowded, hurried. She went straight into the meeting, a grueling day of long and winded arbitrage around the intricacies of the planned merger. The urgency of getting through the negotiations (and lots of coffee) kept her going. She had no time to feel jet lagged. She couldn’t afford to: there was simply too much riding on this deal, both for the firm and personally for her own career. Today was no time to feel tired or slow down – there would be time to rest and sightsee tomorrow.
The meetings went well, she thought. If the deal goes through, she could finally bring up the delicate question of whether this milestone could finally get her that promotion. She fully deserved it of course, but she was not the kind who schmoozed her way up, she preferred to let “her work do the talking”. I’ll check email first thing in the morning, she said to herself, and if the deal got approval from New York she could finally ask for that promotion tomorrow.
He had been in London for several months now. When they worked together in New York she had rebuffed his coy, unsure attempts to get to know her better. Not my type she thought, surely there will be others, more confident, successful men who will appear. But now almost a year later, none actually had and she was beginning to miss the awkward affection he had bestowed upon her and wondering if she had been too harsh in turning away a nice person who actually seemed to care for her. The evening meeting was her proposal, and he had readily accepted. As the work day came to a wrap and her local colleagues invited her to join them at the corner pub for a pint before taking “the tube” back to their homes, she politely declined and texted him to find out where they could meet. Waiting for his response, she finally felt the weight of thirty hours of non-stop travel, lack of sleep and fluorescent coated negotiations and wondered if she may not have tried to pack in too much in the very first day of her very first trip, and perhaps should have planned to meet him tomorrow.
She waited at the coffee shop where they finally had agreed to meet. Funnily, his first offer was to meet at the pub around the corner. What’s with the pubs and pints anyway she wondered, a bit annoyingly, while tapping back a quick rebuttal that a coffee shop would be a quieter, more relaxed venue allowing her to actually spend some time and talk to him. And perhaps see you in a different light, she added, of course, just to herself. Dragging her roller bag behind her she walked the few minutes in a sea of human traffic even as the purse and laptop bag slung around her shoulder slowed her down. Suddenly she felt very tired. Not one for complaining much, she did think anyway that she could have left her luggage at the hotel room if only she had planned to meet him tomorrow.
The coffee shop was not what she expected. It was more of a kiosk right outside the tube station where commuters picked up a cup of coffee or a scone for their long journeys home. This was not the idyllic setting of whistling espresso machines drowned out by smooth jazz on invisible speakers, the gentle clinking of cups and murmurs of conversation that coffee shops meant to her. This was a functional, efficient, crowded, heavily trafficked caffeine fueling station with a couple of bar stools where patrons like her, who for some strange reason wanted to stay longer than a minute, could sit down. What made it worse is that he wasn’t even there, and after sitting down for a while she felt herself nodding off to sleep as jet lag and fatigue went to work on her. If it hadn’t been so noisy and uncomfortable she could’ve probably fallen asleep in a minute. Several uncomfortable somnolent head bobs later, she glanced at her watch and realized she had been there almost half an hour. Clearly he wasn’t coming, maybe he was simply late, or worse, had changed his mind about seeing her after all. Whatever it may be, it was time for her to find her hotel and go to sleep. She texted him saying that she had waited as long as she could, and obviously he couldn’t make it to see her for perhaps very good reasons. Whatever it was, why don’t they now figure it out tomorrow?
She checked the map on her phone to see how far her hotel was. She would need a taxi. And as she stumbled out of the coffee shop her phone chirped with his reply that he had been waiting for half an hour himself and was wondering where she was. It dawned on her that in her haste and understandable confusion of being in a new city (and entirely new country!) she had made her way to the wrong rendezvous. Where are you he was asking now, I’ll come and find you. But at this point, she was in no mood to stay around any longer, much less have a conversation with another human being. A chance to lie down and get that magical shuteye seemed to be the only thing that mattered, and the sooner she found her hotel she could be closer to the nirvana that her mind and body were urging her to seek right now. She spotted a taxi across the road. Her girl-in-a-big-city instincts kicked in, half way around the world from her native habitat as she waved the cabbie to stop – and he did. She smiled to herself, pleased that her New York training was so portable, so valuable, even far away from home, in a place where the cabs were weird and the street signs funny. That same instinct told her that she better hurry and cross the street lest some other upstart closer to the taxi got there first and she would be back to square one, aching feet, droopy eyelids and all ! Always careful, she quickly looked to the left to make sure there was no oncoming traffic, and stepped on to the street.
The red double-decker bus driver knew it was all over even as he felt the thud and the twelve ton metal and glass behemoth crush the hundred pounds of flesh and bone. He pumped the brakes with all his might as the bus screeched to a halt and the horrified onlookers started dialing for the ambulance, even as they knew deep down in their hearts it was already too late. She didn’t even so much as glance to her right to make sure there was no traffic before she stepped out on the street, someone said.
A few hundred meters away he glanced at his phone one more time in the hopes that a new message would pop up telling him she had changed her mind after all. The wailing ambulance sirens on the street snapped him out of his hopeful reverie as he slipped his phone into his jacket and strolled out of the coffee shop. Perhaps, he said to himself, today was just not my day; maybe I’ll have better luck tomorrow.
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