For all those years, I don't even know you exist. Then, just like that, we are standing in the snack aisle at Kroger, both eyeing the last box of chocolate chip granola bars. You make a suggestion: you'll buy it, then give me half of the granola bars, in exchange for nothing more than my phone number.
I laugh. "You can't be serious," I say.
"Come on," you say. "You could even give me a fake number."
"And a fake name," I point out.
"I'm Jenny, by the way," I say.
"Or maybe you aren't," you say.
Friday night, we see a horror movie together in the multiplex downtown. Whenever foreboding music kicks in, I stare at the neon green exit signs instead of the movie screen. It occurs to me later that this is a bad avoidance technique. At dinner, I keep seeing green spots on my menu. I decide to ask the waiter what he recommends. "The lasagna," he says. I ask what else he recommends. He explains to me that it's all good, because if it wasn't, they wouldn't put it on the menu.
"Don't leave him a tip," I tell you, after the waiter leaves.
"Who says I'm paying?" you ask, smiling.
After the twelve or thirteenth date, I stop counting. I keep trying to pay for things, but you always tell me I can get it next time. I eventually have to admit to you that I am, in fact, terrified of horror movies. You confess that you were never really that crazy about granola bars. Sometime after Christmas, you give me a key to your apartment.
"This might be a bad idea," I say. "I'm always losing things."
"Right. I forgot about that," you say.
"That's our problem," I say. "Neither of us can hold onto anything."
Do you remember the birds? All those sparrows in the tree outside your building? It seemed like there were a hundred, at least. They were on every branch, rustling, chirping, coming and going. People could hear them all the way down the block.
We were watching them from your window. You had just asked if I wanted to get out of the city that weekend, and I was saying, "Yes, but where?" and then, all at once, they abandoned the tree. They became a small dark cloud rising from the branches, rising higher than the rooftops until they broke apart and scattered in all directions. For a split second, the sky was polka-dotted, and then it returned to a single shade of blue.