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“He has kind eyes.”

“He’s high. He has high eyes.”

His eyes are so blue and so pink as you look at him standing there looking at you with his head tilted to the side. He’s wearing some weird hat and you assume he’s gay because he’s slim and neat and showed up with some other man who is slim and neat.

It is dark and the people are cold; the group closes in without noticing, huddles together unconsciously, forms small packs of humans, tiny false families.

“I’m a filmmaker.”

“I’m a writer.”

“What do you write?”

“I write about you. And I write about nothing. And I make things up that never happened. But it sounds better later, if I edit it, if I add in things. If I knew at the time what to say.”

The little families are not all false. These people love each other, I just don’t know them. I don’t know them as a family, who loves who, or who hates who occasionally, or what happened that one time on the beach last weekend.

Time goes by, it gets lighter and warmer, and different people sit on the same benches and form similar friendships. The man, who is not a boy, as he’s an eighties baby, and not a child, might have worn that hat again. The woman with curly fairy hair has sobered up but kept the light in her eyes. The little families separate and draw in again, accidentally and on purpose.

Every Friday my neighbors, on the other side of the fence, whom I have never seen, have a barbecue. They are loud and the air smells like smoke and they play good music. They are young, or so I imagine, and they clink their beer bottles, or so I imagine, and they grin into the fire and the light glints off of their eyes and off of their bottles, and they talk loudly about their jobs and their girlfriends and their rent, or so I imagine. It is dry and dusty here, and quiet, but at night you can hear more somehow, maybe because there is more noise. People have time to gather together and speak and make noises and drive their cars past my house and roar their engines and love each other.

Every night the woman comes home from her job. She works hard five days a week, for too many hours each day. At home is her dog, who watches her leave every morning, lays on the rug in the afternoon, and plays fetch with her at night until they go to sleep after watching a few hours of television. Sometimes this little family gets larger, when the woman’s son comes to visit, and brings with him his son and his wife. But they leave again, and the woman and the dog stay.

The girl with curly fairy hair was humming to herself as she walked next to me. I listened but ignored her, in a way, as I didn’t turn my head to smile, or to acknowledge I had heard her. Eventually she stopped, and laughed, and she said to me, “I’m bored!” It was some attempt at friendship or fun. When I had just met her, before I even knew her name, I had told her her hair was beautiful, in a sort of blunt, honest way that happened too early on in the meeting-someone process. But it had worked out somehow, and so there she was, humming next to me, making something, at least for the length of a walk.

 

 

 

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bagel lady: “good morning.”

me: …

bagel lady: “good morning.”

me: “good morning…”

bagel lady: “are you ready?”

me: “umm….”

bagel lady: …

bagel lady: …

bagel lady: …

me: “could i have a sesame bagel?”

bagel lady: “do you want that toasted? do you want anything on it?”

me: “yes. do you have cream cheese?”

bagel lady: “… yes, we have cream cheese.”

me: “what kinds?”

bagel lady: “it’s on the sign. …we have eight kinds of cream cheese.”

me: “oh… chive. thank you…”

THE END

There is a very specific conversation I’ve had before with people I loved or cared about at the time, or with people I had wanted to love or care about in the future, when they were leaving, or when I was leaving (but usually the former), leaving for good, and I’d have this conversation knowing I’d never see them again or speak to them again, etc. It’s only happened a few times, this conversation, maybe only twice that I can remember clearly. Once was in second grade, when the girl I called my best friend moved to West Virginia, and I knew I would never see her again, even though I wrote down her new address on a scrap of paper I then proceeded to lose, and now I’ve lost everything of her: her name, her face, and her address.

The second time was many years later, in High School, with the boy I (secretly) called my boyfriend, that someone else would call my crush; a strange friend-like-but-not-friend-like relationship. Relationships get more complicated as you get older, but the simple moments of leaving stay simple and stay with you. He was just changing schools, but I knew that our strange fragile relationship wouldn’t last, wouldn’t survive the separation. I knew I would never see him again, and I told him so in our very last conversation, and though he denied it, though he said we’d see each other again, hang out, talk, go places, we didn’t, we never did, we never have, we never will.

I feel another of these conversations approaching, but I feel like the next one will be different, possibly won’t include a conversation at all, and it might be directed at or include the city I live in, was born in, have spent most of my life in, as well as all of the people I’ve ever met, or seen, or spoken to on the streets of my childhood neighborhood, in the state and region and road I grew up in and on and around. I’m leaving, moving, growing up and taking off, and saying goodbye to people and places, or maybe not saying goodbye at all, maybe just thinking back, reflecting, taking it all in once more as someone drives me to the airport, or as I cross the state line in my little black sports car, trunk full of belongings which will be my material memories of this place I’ve been in for so long. And maybe it’ll be different this time, this goodbye will be different than all the rest, won’t be for forever; we’ll still have holidays, and funerals, and maybe a couple months in a few years if I lose my job and my apartment and move back home for a while. I won’t lose everything from this relationship, although the faces will fade, and I might get lost on the side streets next time I drive on them.

The best and worst moments of my life have been when cute boys have smiled at me.

I was sitting in my beige SUV with the engine on, getting ready to leave school and head home for the day. Music from my iPod was already flowing through my speakers as I pulled the seatbelt around me and clicked it in.

Looking up and through the windshield, I made eye contact with a student passing by. A boy. A blonde boy. He wore a blue stocking cap over his shoulder-length hair. He smiled at me.

I looked away. Then, back. He was already past the front of my vehicle. Gone.

I shifted into reverse and backed out from my parking spot, wondering. Who was he? Where was he? I couldn’t see him anymore.

I shifted into drive, heading in the direction he had been walking: away. Away from the school, away from the parking lot, away from me. I slowly drove past one car, and another… searching for him with my eyes. Then,  there he was. Walking to his car. Our eyes met, again, and I quickly looked away. Again. Again, again, again.

Who was he? Why did I look away? What would have happened if I hadn’t? What if I had smiled back? What if I had stopped my car and jumped out?

Driving away, doing none of those things, I wondered.

I thought about the potential in that moment: sitting there, watching the boy smile. I thought about all of the small moments of potential that have passed me by. I thought of that boy who had passed me by, and I him.

So, here’s the sitch. (I’ve always wanted to say that in real life but the proper moment just never comes up.)

Recently (about six minutes ago), I was walking down the hall. Well, OK, the hall was actually a sky-walk (one of those tube-y things on college campuses that connect buildings so no one actually has to set foot outside). Anyway, there I was, walking down the hall/sky-walk.

I’ll admit that at that moment I was being one of those people who walk and text on their cell phones at the same time. I was trying to, anyway. I don’t really text that much, let alone walk and text at the same time. We are talking high-level functioning human stuff, here.

Even better that I was texting this guy from Saudi Arabia who doesn’t really speak English. He’s in the English language program at my University. Basically, we hang out sometimes and, er, talk. (We are “conversation partners”. It’s all rather fancy.) So, when I text him, I can’t be all: “lets meet 2morrow 4 food-age, bro!”, or, “wassup homie?!” — you know, my typical text language. Yeah. I can just imagine the confused stares that would bring about.

OK, so there I was, doing all this multitasking, when suddenly, a wild college student appeared! AKA, a thirty year old lady in fancy pants (dress pants, you might call them). I was gaping (I’m sure looking all intelligent) down at my phone when I heard,

“Do you have a pen? – I could have?”

Me: uhhh… wait what just happened? “Um, I don’t know….”

So then I dig immediately into my (rather tiny) purse and spot the four pens that are hanging out in the bottom underneath my keys and my magic gum (I’ll tell you about that another time).

I have a brief mental moment of consideration. These are like good pens. Not those little BIC ones that are found on every floor of every room in every building on campus. These are my Pilot G2 babies. I have a red and a black and a green and a blue (for every occasion!). Should I give one of these to this random person – fully knowing that not only have I never seen her before, but I will certainly never see her again, AKA, this is me giving away my pen. I mean, she didn’t even say that lame thing that people say when they’re all like, ‘hey, can I borrow a piece of paper?!’ You are not going to be giving it back, though, and both parties know this.

So, I did my little purse-digging, briefly (hopefully not too long) stared at my little pens, and looked back up at her with a sad face, saying, “No. I’m sorry!” And then she walked away and I clutched my pen-containing-purse to my chest and ran quickly away in the opposite direction. The End.

 
Does this make me a horrible person? I don’t think so. The only reason I ask this is because just before I was walking down that sky-walk/hallway I had been in a Philosophy class. Dang you, Philosophy.

I feel like this is sort of similar to those situations when homeless people/others ask you for change while you’re walking down the street, and you don’t want to give them any – for whatever reason – so you go and pat your back pocket, shake your head like you’re surprised to find nothing there and go, “Sorry, I don’t have anything. Must have left my two rolls of quarters at home today. Sorry!” (I’ve even done the back-pocket maneuver. You think I’ve ever kept a wallet back there? Nope.)

What really gets me is that I messed up my text message because of it! I’m supposed to be helping this guy with his language skills, and I go and send him the following: “So how about we meet tomorrow after your class tomorrow and then maybe go to the farmer’s market?” Tomorrow. Did you get that? Well, then again, maybe that helped him.

Maybe this a life lesson: Don’t attempt to walk and text at the same time, Jenni. It’s just not going to work out for you.

Whatever. You still can’t have my pen.