A student comes into the lab where you work cuz her teacher says she has to, she’s your age, and from the moment she walks in you for some reason fall into this comfortable barb-trading, razzing one another’s outfits and haircuts and teeth, and when you sit to help her out with an assignment you get along great, joking and making headway through the work, and if there’s anything flirtatious about the way you guys are joking it’s kept way beneath the surface because, apart from making a mess of the tutor-student thing, she’s involved with somebody, and you’re involved with somebody, both parties happy with those involvements.
She has a son. He’s 6. She collects and repairs and fawns over old cameras and would like to do more of it but for the fact that, as she puts it, she “just had to choose the fucking most expensive hobby, of course, and so…”
She trails off a lot, finishing her points with nimble-fingered gestures and, occasionally, a weight-lifter’s lunge. You go down to the cafeteria with her for a colada one afternoon and she does a pirouette at the register. Says she woulda been a great dancer if her parents had enrolled her.
The two of you meet at a music thing one night after the semester’s done, a couple of mutual friends in the mix. Later she drives you back to your car and in those couple minutes you both get uncharacteristically direct (a few months of casually insulting each other has made this weirdly easy) and the conversation culminates with one or the other saying, “So we’ve got crushes on each other,” and then quiet awkward yeahs.
Something just barely mournful to your voices, like it sucks, but also something relaxed and contemplative, because it doesn’t suck.
You’re involved with someone, and happy; she’s involved with someone, and happy.
A relaxed silence between you, like a shrug, and then, smiling, you cheesy fucks talk about moments where one of you swooned at something the other one did. Back when the crush was a secret. That thing you wore, the way you said it, the lighting was just right…
You both laugh about it.
The road’s dark and empty, it’s late, and she drives like a mom with her hands at 10 and 2, her back straight as a board. So much respect for the speed limit.
Grayhaired, comfortable on the porch with a beer, you’re thinking back on old heartthrobs and passions, commitments, dreams.
And then, on a breeze, you catch a tune. Something from your youth. Know that song so well.
Follow it down the street to the gaping door of the old beatdown playhouse and upon walking inside you see a sign for