We defaulted to each other. Almost everyone else had someone to hug, kiss, giggle and whisper with. Patricia was alone and so was I. She looked at me, and I at her. I moved in slow, cautious, and she closed the distance between us. For a moment something sparked.
I knew her from grade school. She was just there. Nothing special to me, not a longing crush or an unrequited infatuation. She kept to herself and her friends, and I to mine. Our orbits never intersected until that late October night, under the sodium arc lamps of the tiny town’s main drag in the plywood-floored bed of a ‘77 Chevy Silverado stepside.
After eighth grade, she went to the local high school. I went to the private college-prep Catholic high school in a neighboring town, a much more affluent suburb beyond the rolling yellow hills. I didn’t see her for a long time, but one day in early September we met again.
She stood outside the grocery store with ready-smile and flyer in hand, her pitch on her lips. When she saw me she smiled, and gave a shy little wave. I returned both. I didn’t think about it again. But my friend Glenn invited his old grade school cadre out for the home coming game, and my buddy Bob – one of those high-quality, use-‘em-for-what-they-can-give-you-in-the-moment “friends” I had then – drove four of us to the game. Afterward, eight crowded to the truck for the drive home. Some crammed into the cab but enough of us tumbled into the little box of the truck to make things intimate.
I sidled over beside Patricia, and she gave me that little smile again, just as she had in front of the grocery store. We rode in silence until I slid my arm around her shoulders and she leaned into my chest. We traveled that way for a time before we finally touched lips in a tender, innocent version of something like loneliness and smoldering passion.
Far too quickly, we got to her house and I helped her out of the bed of the truck. She smiled, thanked the driver and waved to us all. I stole one last kiss, which she returned, and as the truck pulled away and left her standing curbside in the dark, my eyes locked with hers and lingered. I watched her, silhouetted against the pale blue streetlight puddled on the sidewalk, as she turned and went in.
I never saw Patricia again.
Nothing may have ever come of it; something grand may have. I’ll never know. Time and circumstance worked like a rip tide to pull us apart. But every once in a while, I remember that ride in the back of that ‘77 Chevy pickup and the way Patricia smiled at me, kissed me, and never said a word.
Sometimes, that’s how I feel about my waistline too. *Sigh*
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