Loser's Guide to Life
For some reason the movie date wasn't working out. Kevin had felt this might well be how the thing would play. Something about the agreement itself, the venue where they had hammered out the details (a corridor at work), the particular type of enthusiasm registered by the woman, something like that had, at the very outset, tipped him off. And now there was no sign of her. Fifteen minutes to go and still no sign of her. The people who came dripping down the escalator did not look as if they could possibly include her. Groups and pairs of sedated habitués of the malls, out for an evening of something, looking as if they all came from the same place. They were too - what? Casual? Unheeding? Too under-statedly elegant?
Kevin had things to think about, however. The software at work was acting out. Everyone had had problems this week. He spent the last two days wandering around the halls and talking to people about legendary computer problems. It was amazing how people seemed to open up when the computers were out, almost like people brought together in the wake of a great storm. No one was actually injured, but they all had stories to tell.
And where was she? Five minutes to show time. Go in or not? Of course a movie date is negotiable: the person who is stood up can always go to the movie and have a good time. In fact it is almost an index to a person's maturity how well he amuses himself at the movie when the other party fails to appear. "Oh, don't worry about that - I liked it, but you might have found it a bit dull." (It is just as important not to pretend to have had too good a time).
Why would she not have turned up? What was the likelihood of each possible reason? Well, if you've time on your hands -
60% - "Something came up", which is to say something better, even marginally so, was offered - staying at a coffee shop talking to a friend, for example.
23% - "Forces beyond control", transportation, work, etc.
8% - "There's been a change in plan", i.e., reconsidered the plan in a lucid moment and was aghast at having agreed to it.
7% - "Forgot all about it", which could also include confusion, momentary paralysis of the will, etc.
2% - "Death", probably the only real good excuse.
Where was she? Maybe she was unable to come because ... what if she were like that man at the park on Sunday, in some sort of semi-conscious state, wheeled around by sympathetic relatives? They bought him an ice cream cone and had him eat it. "Lick it!" they cried. "Lick it with your tongue, Mike! There you go. You're doing good. Eat 'er up! Y'finished? Are you? You don't want any more? You had enough, that's okay. You're doing really well, Mike! I say you're doing really well!!" She might be just like that man, alive and conscious, but unable to do anything more than lick an ice cream cone at someone else's instructions.
And if she were dead? Wasn't that a horrifying possibility? What to do? Probably nothing now. It would be revealed the next day, or even later. Kevin reasoned that the terrible impact on her relatives and very close friends would no doubt make this disappointment of his seem puny, and he began to reflect on the possibility of her having died. He sat down at still another coffee bar with a fresh styrofoam container of coffee. He would be shocked, of course. Saddened. To think of this vibrant young woman, who had everything to live for - job, nice apartment, on her way to a critically-acclaimed movie - struck down, never to be heard from again. It was ... how bad was it?
Kevin darted up to the box office. By the time he found the individually-wrapped theatre at the end of a plush hallway, the movie was well under way. There were vast explosions. Space stations were harassed with laser weapons fire. Fighter squadrons were scrambled. Many people and many, many aliens were killed. But eventually the problem was solved, and the universe was no longer at war.