One day Gary asked Linda out to a movie. She accepted and they had a pretty good time. A few nights later, he asked her out to dinner and again they enjoyed themselves. They continued to see each other regularly and after a while neither of them was seeing anyone else.
One evening while they were driving home, a thought occurred to Linda and without thinking said it out loud: "Do you realize that as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?"
There was silence in the car. To Linda it seemed like a very loud silence.
She thought to herself:
'Sheesh, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure.'Gary thought to himself:
'Gosh. Six months.'And Linda thought:
'But hey, I'm not sure I want this kind of relationship either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward ... I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?'And Gary thought:
'So ... that means it was ... let's see ... it was February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's which means ... let me check the odometer ... Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.'And Linda thought:
'He's upset. I can see it in his face. Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment. Maybe he has sensed - even before I sensed it - that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected.'And Gary thought:
'And I'm gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not working right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It's 86 degrees out and this thing is shifting like a damn dump truck - and I paid those incompetent thieves $800.'And Linda thought:
'He's angry. And I don't blame him - I'd be angry too. I feel so guilty putting him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure.'And Gary thought:
'They'll probably say it's only a 90-day warranty. That's exactly what they're gonna say, those slimebags.'And Linda thought:
'Maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on a white horse, when I'm sitting next to a perfectly good person. A person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my romantic fantasy.'And Gary thought:
'Warranty? I'll give them a damn warranty. I'll take their warranty and stick it up their ...'
"Gary," Linda said.
"What?" he answered, startled.
"Please don't torture yourself like this," Linda said her eyes beginning to brim with tears. "Maybe I never should have ... I feel so ..." She broke down sobbing.
"What?" said Gary.
"I'm such a fool," Linda sobbed. "I mean, I know there's no knight, and there's no horse."
"There's no night? No horse?" said Gary baffled.
"You think I'm a fool, don't you?" Linda said.
"No!" Gary responded, playing it safe.
Linda said, "It's just that ... it's just that I ... I need more time."
There was a fifteen second pause while Gary, thinking as fast as he could, tried to think of a safe response. Finally he came up with one he thought might work, "Yes," he said.
Linda, deeply moved, touched his hand. "Oh Gary, do you really feel that way?"
"What way?" Gary asked.
"That way about time," Linda replied.
"Oh," said Gary, glancing at his watch. "No, I mean, yes."
Linda turned to face him and gazed deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last, she finally spoke, "Thank you, Gary."
"Er, yeah," he said uncertainly.
Later he took her home. After changing, Linda flopped onto her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and wept until dawn.
When Gary got back to his place he opened a bag of pretzels, turned on the TV and immediately became deeply involved in a re-run of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he had never heard of.
A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind told him that something major was going on back there in the car. He was pretty sure that there was no way he would ever understand what, and so he figured that it was better not to think about it. This was also Gary's policy regarding world hunger.
The next day Linda called her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they talked about her situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they analyzed everything she and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, every expression and gesture for nuances of meaning, and considering every ramification.
They would continue to discuss the subject on and off, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it either.
Meanwhile, Gary, while playing tennis one day with a mutual friend of his and Linda's, paused just before serving, frowned and said, "Scott, did Linda ever ride a horse at night?"