Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Everything is Never as it Seems

I had to pick up Susan again. I was supposed to once before, but it didn't work out. I think she found another ride.
I was parallel parked along a curb by a bus stop, and as I got in my car and started to drive away, I noticed that my windshield was cracked. Not like a normal hairline crack, either, but a crack like what the earth looks like when the plates are shifting or lava is about to burst out of the ground. The glass was puckered inward and cracked into huge chunks that, instead of falling, kept sliding around within the frame of the windshield.
But I had to pick up Susan again. Last time I thought she was at the school, but now I realized that it was a school that was also a hospital that was also an apartment complex that was in the same general place as Juniata Elementary is here. I ran into the building, down hallways and around corners, trying to get to the far side of the school/hospital/apartments. Why didn't I just drive around to where I was supposed to pick her up? I don't know. But somehow I had a slip of paper that said I wasn't supposed to pick her up there, I was supposed to pick her up on West Adam Street, in town, at her new place of employment. But I realized....
At some point I realized that this was his new apartment complex, that he lived here now. When I got to the end of the building I ran up flight of stairs, intending to turn at the top of the stairs, just to run past his place, go down that hallway and go down the flight of stairs at the other end, which would bring me to the doors where I was supposed to pick up Susan. But I got to the top and there he was, his face hidden by one of the double doors that encloses the wide stairways in schools. He was doing push-ups with his head to the door. It makes sense, because he always did try to do some push-ups every now and again; why shouldn't he do them out in the hall right before he goes to work? I ran back downstairs and around in circles for a while -- or so it seemed -- before heading back to the hallway directly under his, on the first floor. There he was again, walking towards the door at the other end. I knew the back of his head perfectly, his hair, the curve of his shoulders and the step of his stride, his hands in his coat pockets and that little bounce in his step that has nothing to do with joy and everything to do with a self-conscious, practiced carelessness. I had a brief flash of running down the hallway parallel to that one and "bumping into" him by the doors at the other end, but what if he got there before I did? I called out his name. He must have recognized my voice, because he paused a second before he turned; turned in that slow way of his. We stared at each other, and I couldn't tell whether or not he was surprised to see me. I wanted to explain, to tell him that I wasn't stalking him, that I was here to pick up Susan. But we just stared at each other. Finally he said, "What?" but I had taken my phone out to dial the number on the piece of paper where Susan worked now. He said "What" again, and as I turned away, he laughed.
Then I was gone, running down the hallway to the door when I was supposed to pick up Susan -- I don't recall moving in any way other than a run the entire time. I put the phone up to my ear as it rang once and got an automated system to an abortion clinic. "Ah!" I thought. "That's where she works now." I thought this to myself with the same air that someone might smile and nod when told what ice cubes are for: "Ah! You put them in your drink. Very nice." Smile. Nod. Turn and talk to the person next to you. But I was frustrated, because I couldn't get a hold of her, and how was I supposed to pick up Susan if I couldn't find her?
I burst through the doors and weaved between the students waiting for buses or cars to pick them up and take them home. To the left, in the part of the lawn where they were doing construction, I saw Coach Jim, talking to another man. I ran up to him, panting, "Which part of town has the street names that are guys' names?" Jim laughed, told me to calm down. I said, "I know the trees are over there," and pointed behind the school. He nodded and pointed down another street. "And those are all butterflies!" he said, a little proudly. I asked again where the boys' names were, asked if they were downtown. He nodded and I asked where Adam Street was. Maybe I only asked it in my mind, because I don't remember getting an answer.
I don't remember much of anything after that, actually. I must not have gotten Susan, again. When I got the call to pick her up, I was excited, because I hadn't seen her in so long, and I really wanted to talk to her. I wanted to tell her that I've been hanging out with Danny, that we're friends again now, and tell her what we talk about. I wanted to ask her about her life and her boyfriend and if she still reads her books. Then we could talk about books, and maybe have a campfire, like before. But I didn't get to her in time -- again.
Maybe next time.

*most names are changed, for some reason

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