We spend our evenings chatting on Facebook, but three weeks have passed since our dinner, and Mr. Faraway and I still have no plans to get together. I hint a bit here and there, but though it’s clear he takes my meaning, he does not take it any further than that. We make plans to see a movie that is coming out in a few months, but that is a long way off and tentative at best.
Be patient, I tell myself. This is very new to him, and there’s a lot of distance – a lot of miles – between us both.
My father nods his approval of Mr. Faraway: He was sent to teach you patience, he tells me.
I know that is what I should do, and that I should be enjoying our chats and savoring our stolen glances, but suddenly I don’t anymore. I feel like a substitute for the real thing: I fill in the time when he’d otherwise be alone, and keep him company through a keyboard. I think I am being unfair, like I have to overlook all his good points to feel that way, but it still nags and gnaws at me.
One morning, not long after that second event, I receive a barrage of emails from him. They are coming from his phone, but short and clipped, often incomplete – a puzzle of text messages to assemble. He’s trying to find a date to get together again, but that isn’t what the messages say.
What they say is: On these dates, I have board meetings and a scholarship auction. On those dates, those are my kid weekend. When is your vacation? Oh, then that won’t work.
He goes through the whole month, one message at a time, telling me all the things he is busy with – a list of prior commitments. Every bit of his time is booked, all of it for his children, his job, his community, his church.
It’s a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle, with all the pieces in place: finished.
Except there is one piece, and it’s sitting on the side, wondering if he can find a way to work it in, or whether it will be put back to the box or maybe even the trash. An extra piece, the one there was no place to put.
I stop answering his messages, and focus my attention back at work.