Why do I think about that night so often now? Picturing moments from it, recalling impressions, feelings, as if I could reach through remembrance and retrieve myself from the past. These snapshot memories: Zach watching me, his hair across his face again, as I talked about my year in the city; the benches at Coma Jump, wood worn smooth, next to my leg an “MW+KD ’89” etched inside a scratched-on heart; night sky dark blue out to the edges, LA alive with light below.
We were there, Zach and I, talking for hours, looking out over the city. And then the sun rose. It feels like a dream of us. Happy together, oblivious. And that’s why I think about it, remembering. Look at us. We don’t know anything yet. It’s the other side of all that happened after.
Sometimes I want to go back to that night, but I know I can’t. I want to close my eyes. I can’t.
When I remember everything, it comes to life again. All of it living on now, nowhere else except right here.
Let’s face it, the “date” with Zach was a failure, not at all a romantic evening out but something else, something that, after all, I think I liked better. I hadn’t planned on telling him about LA. I don’t even know why it happened. Maybe I understood that Zach would listen. Maybe I just needed to tell the story, to hear myself tell it to another person. Ever since I’d come back to Park Heights, I hadn’t even considered being with anyone. That part of me was shut down. Maybe it was a necessity, telling Zach about what had happened to me—and maybe then, after I’d finished the story, maybe I’d be able to restart this part of me I’d been forced to shut down and pack away. And I was right about Zach. He followed everything I said so intently, the perfect listener, the perfect confessor. He took my hand and we held hands for a long time.
Even after my major downer soliloquy, the two of us kept on talking. It was easy. We talked about movies, music. He talked about his senior year. I talked about the customers I met at my job. A shift had taken place throughout the night, in me at least—I wasn’t sure what he was feeling—but I knew now that I wasn’t in love with him, I knew I would never fall in love with him. It didn’t matter. We were close in some other way now, and that was what I wanted.
The dawn was done—we had watched the sun come up, a quiet unfolding of yellow-red light into low, pale clouds—and the day was brighter now, too bright and too harsh for the two of us who’d been up all night. We were making our way back to Zach’s car, holding hands like little kids.
“Thank you,” I said to him.
“You’re welcome?” he said uncertainly. “For what?”
“I don’t know what that was, to tell you the truth.”
“It was great.”
He was shaking his head. “But it wasn’t really a date.”
“No, it wasn’t.” I looked at him. “Does that bother you?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Not really. I don’t think I’ve ever just spent time like that . . . with someone like you.”
“As messed up as me, you mean.”
“No, of course I don’t mean that. You’re a deep person. You’re really something. That’s what I mean.”
When we got to his car I stopped him and pulled him closer. We kissed. Or rather, I kissed him. I think he was surprised by it. I’m not sure why I did it. To show him what the night meant to me. Maybe even to test what I felt, to give that spark between us one last chance to kindle into something.
And the kiss was chaste. It was sweet; it was tender. It would be the one and only kiss we’d have, and I’m sure we both knew it.
“Thank you,” I said, brushing the hair back from his eyes. “I mean it.”
Zach didn’t say anything. He started his car and drove me home.
I wouldn’t see him again until the night of the fundraiser at Arcyn.
A few days later I opened the mailbox at home to find an invitation to the fundraiser. It was a beautiful thing, a heavy cream-colored envelope with my name written in flowing calligraphy across the front. Inside there was a thick card, the invitation itself, also written in sweeping, graceful strokes of jet-black ink.
For the Wellness Centre
Admittance: Tess Bellamy
My iPhone started ringing at almost the exact moment the invitation was out of the envelope and in my hand. It was Linna.
“Did you get it?” she said.