December 2007


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Hillary has long hair. Hair down past her behind. Itis knotted and a deep chocolate brown. It is impossible to know anything abouther without knowing about her hair. But how much can be said about hair? It islong and twirls on top of her little head. “Sometimes,” she says “it is so muchit gives me a headache.” Her blue eyes seem to be more piercing than theyactually are, they are only blue eyes after all; but when she lets down herhair, and it sprawls across the shrubby green of Sheepshead meadow, well hereyes seem to be something more at that particular time.

 

She is a good looking girl, only nineteen with thekind of body that nineteen year olds have. Still holding on to a bit of thatbaby chunk, perky tits, wide hips, and a general sense of amazement with theworld.

 

It is tax day, or the Sunday before taxes are due, butthat doesn’t much matter to her, she is nineteen – but it means that it is midApril. A nor’easter is passing through, swamping the city in the torrentialdown pours that no one can ever remember ever something coming close to. Sincethe morning the sky has been a dark grey. Thunder rolls up and down sixthavenue and the streets have never been so quiet as they are today. Buses plythrough massive puddles, making only small splashes because they can’t bedriving to quickly; it is really raining hard.

 

Hillary does not care about the rain, she kind oflikes it, and though the day would be nice to spend out in Brooklyn, she hadpromised a boy that she would meet him at the library. She is a college girlfor now. But girls with hair that long, and eyes that blue don’t stay in schoolfor too long.

 

The boy is Sam. He probably loves her but is paralyzedby self deprecation that in certain circles has become not only de rigueur butalso fashionable. It is odd but true. They have been meeting like this –Sundays at the library, or walks through Chinatown and up onto the BrooklynBridge, going to old movies together, and all those other sorts of collegedates that are crushingly romantic. He hadn’t tried to kiss her. There had beenplenty of times when it would have been right to do as much – there was thatnight where they shared the bed because Hillary was drunk and didn’t want to gohome. Sam is spineless and Hillary now feels like she is wasting her time. Ifonly this college boy knew a little more.

 

He doesn’t know much and he can’t help it when Hillarystarts talking to the man who is sitting in the empty silent room. It is emptyand so she doesn’t bother to whisper. “Do you know what is going on with thebee’s.”

 

He looks up from the book that furrows his brow likehe was expecting her to talk to him, “How they are dying?”

 

“Why is that?” she asks.

 

He sees Sam watching them. He is making himself busywith an encylopedia, something he doesn’t need to be looking at, but, “who isHillary talking to?” and “I thought we were here to study.”

 

“Pesticides, Chemicals, years of environmentaldegradation adding up to this.” He says. He has thought a lot about the bees.It seems like an oddly ominous omen.

 

“Degradation? Who says that?” she asks.

 

“People who are in the library on Sundays during thishuge storm.” He says. He is happy for the diversion from work. He got to thelibrary a few hours ago and did more than he imagined he would. Maybe the rainhad made his reading particularly analytical.

 

“And when a girl starts talking to them, they thinkwords like this will impress them?” she says, quickly turning this conversationinto the realm of sex.

 

“Well, if she isn’t, then maybe there is a problem tobegin with.” He says with a smile. She is clearly a smart girl, or at leasttrying to be smarter. Girls with hair like hers aren’t often found in thelibrary.

 

Sam is sulking and gets her attention. “Pardon memomentarily, I have to converse with my friend about the change in plans,” shesays.

 

There had been no change of plans discussed. But sheis whispering now to Sam, which is good. There are a few more pages he canread, though his mind isn’t really on the book any more. It is on her. On hernineteen-year-old cheeks, on her grammar, on the way Sundays are always weird.

 

He tries not to watch Sam slap the heavy encyclopediacover closed but it is hard not to. There is no one else in the library. Maybethat is why his reading had been so analytical. Sam turns his back and for thefirst time he is showing some gumption. Hillary hasn’t walked all over him, shehas been a good friend for most of the semester. He hurries out and she comesback smiling.

 

“Is everything alright?” he asks.

 

“My name is Hillary.” She extends her hand.

 

He takes it and replies, “My name is Joshua.”

 

“Joshua what?” she asks.

 

“Joshua Stevens.” He says, her hand is calloused. Shehas worked since she was twelve.

“I like your name, I am Hillary, Hillary Davis.”

 

“Hillary Davis, what are you doing out of your houseon a day like this?” He says placing his book with the spine facing up.

 

“I said I would meet him,” she points her square chinover her shoulder. He is already gone though, and mostly she just makes a funnylooking face. There is a sweetness to her – she is nineteen, and this mayaccount for most of that.

 

“Who?” He asks.

 

She turns around, turns fully around, in the way thatnineteen year old girls aren’t aware that every inch of their bodies aredelicious. She is full in the back, and the water has seeped up her pant legleaving the brown corduroys clinging tight to her calf. It is a good calf, fullof muscle a little brown hairs. “He left?” She asks him, knowing that he waswatching her and that talk.

 

“Because of me?” Joshuas’ concern is obviously not astrue as the tone of voice. Of course the boy left because of him.

 

“So now what?” She continues the conversation ofquestions.

 

“I suppose all that is left is to smoke some, eatsomething, and walk in the rain.” He says sure that was hoping he would saysomething along these lines.

 

“What about your work” another question.

 

“It isn’t work, it is a book.” Joshua closes the bookfully. There is a moment’s pause that is pregnant with everything in the worldthere is to talk about when two people meet. Books would be obvious course totake, being in the library and all; but the pause lingers. Her eyes are blue,nineteen years old blue, unclouded – and she returns his stare unblinking. Hedisguises his smile better than hers and her lips curl. Everything about thisday lends more meaning to their meeting. The lights in the library flicker.Hillary opens her mouth in shock, but it is also in excitement. “We shouldn’tstay underground, there is so much rain to be had.”

 

“And what would you do if you had all todays rain?” isher being coy with the questions, or is that how this is all coming together?She likes his answers. They are short, and stupid, and she thinks he is goodlooking.

 

Under an awning they smoke. Or he smokes, like a manwho has been smoking for the better part of a decade. Her fingers are in aclumsy “V” and her inhaling seems forced. The rain thunders overhead, FifthAvenue is never as empty as it is now; only the puddles sparking in persistentbeating, only the thunder that rolls Northward, only them smoking and lookingat each other. She is talking now, and he is listening, proving he can ask asmany questions as she can. She talks about last night, about this morning,about the rain, about having no money, about the things a nineteen-year-oldthinks she should talk about.

 

“Do you know Days Of Heaven? Sheasks, like she knows it is his favorite movie.

 

{Continued …} 

 

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