Summer of 2014
We walked down our boulevard under the cathedral canopy of maple trees, the evening sunlight trickling through to the ground in leaf green splashes. The kids talked all at once, rivaling the murder of ravens squawking a grisly tune above our heads. Nate from the stroller on my left lisped a story that my summer lulled brain barely registered, while Saige hummed a nonsense tune, and Garrett and Quinn fought a stick battle to the death.
I heard the rhythmic click of the skateboard wheels before we saw them. A boy and a girl rolling up the middle of the street. The kids stopped to watch, one by one. It was something about the way he held her elbow, gently but firmly with one hand, and her waist with the other. It was the way she laughed, hesitant but happy. He was taller than her even with her feet on the board and his on the street and when he looked down into her eyes even I caught my breath.
Summer of 1989
I had to slam on my brakes when he pulled his pick up truck around me at the intersection and turned sideways in front of my girly blue car. I had five minutes to get home before I missed my curfew again, but I couldn’t hide my smile. He leaned on his skinny, freckled arm and pushed his head out the window. His backwards baseball cap covered his bright red hair.
“Hi,” he said. Moths fluttered in the streetlight above our heads. Ohio’s sticky summer air hit the side of my face. I could smell the hairspray in my hair, the hot blacktop, and the exhaust our cars hummed into the humidity.
“I have to get home.”
I laughed and chewed on my thumb. “Your truck is in my way.”
“I wanted to know if you want to go to the movies on Saturday?”
I laughed again because he never got mad or stopped being my friend.
“I can’t, Matt, I have plans … I …. friends?
“Sure. See you Monday.” And he looked at me just like that, like he’d never let me fall, before he shifted gears and drove away.
Summer of 2014
They rolled by us and I could see the baseball cap tucked into the back pocket of his baggie jeans. She giggled, losing her balance a little.
“What are they doing? Quinn asked me, his head cocked to the side with intense concentration.
“They’re playing.” I said. “He’s teaching her to ride his skateboard.”
“But why is he looking at her like that?” my daughter asked.
I wanted to cry with gratefulness that Matt never gave up. I wanted to run after that little girl and tell her not to be foolish, not to look for more excitement, something bigger, something better. Not to think he was weak or too easy because he wasn’t hard to get and he gave away his heart. Not to take him for granted.
I wanted to stop them right there in the street and gather my children around them and say “marry someone who looks at you just like that.”
Instead I glanced their way and said “because he loves her.”