particular Saturday, I remember waiting for Fish’s mom to pick him
up outside after we had finished our last day of training. The
fog was thick. It was one of those depressing rainy days after
Christmas where everything is wet and the fog is thick. We were
wearing our blue uniforms and our blue hats, which we would have taken
off except for the cold. It wasn’t that cold, but just enough
where you could see your breath, only the faintest traces of it though,
like mornings where you have to breathe extra hard to see it. We didn’t
bring jackets. Russell told us the uniforms were now “ours to
keep.” Fish had said “Ah gee Russell, my own blue hat, you
shouldn’t have.” But we really hated the things. We
talked for a little bit about the new girl that we had met on our way
out. Fish said that she was worth a shot. He lit a cigarette
and said, “I saw her teeth. They’re pretty nice. You
get a girl with a nice mouth, a nice ass and some curves, and you’re
set.” I remember wondering why he cared about a girl’s teeth
so much as he opened the sliding door of his mother’s minivan.
I was still on my first cigarette, I began walking through the parking
lot to my car, which was hidden in the fog. It was the kind of
fog where people appear only thirty feet ahead of you, as if they had
walked out of some secret cloud world. You would pass them and
not say a word, since they were all bundled up, and probably not interested
in nodding a friendly hello, being a stranger in a parking lot as they
were. Then, when you looked behind you, they would walk back into
it and disappear, as if they had never existed in the first place.
I had only gone thirty feet or so, just enough to lose sight of the
mall entrance, when I passed her. Her hair was wet and tied behind
her head, as if she had just stepped out of the shower. She was
wearing the same blue shirt as me, which is actually the second reason
I noticed her. The first was the hair. She had her arms
crossed and this frilly pink and purple scarf around her neck.
About the time that we were to pass each other, she looked up and caught
me staring at her. What could have been your typical accidental-eye-contact-turned-staring-the-other-direction,
to pretend you weren’t looking at her on purpose, to pretend that
it was just a random freak thing your head happened to be angled her
direction at the wrong moment, suddenly wasn’t that at all.
She stared back at me and gave me this small, completely devastating
smile. I smiled back, much less devastatingly, sure that I had
never seen her before, but caught terrifically off guard by the force
of her pupils.
passed each other briefly, and it seemed to me that I had missed an
opportunity to say something impressive. The next thing I knew,
the young woman had turned around and actually grabbed my arm.
It was the touch of it that really got me. She seemed to be smiling
too much for a girl without a jacket on a foggy day, and her fingernails
dug ever so slightly into my skin. The fingernails of a girl you
immediately know you would kiss, given the opportunity, just from walking
past her in a parking lot, can set your brain molecules off like pinballs.
“You work at the Little Ice Cream Shop, yes?” she said.