on broadway.

"So..." she ventured, hesitating, "...was that a date?"


They had arranged, in clandestine fashion (if by clandestine you meant a chat window), to meet outside the bookstore at seven. He had spent most of his day chatting to coworkers, about leads on new jobs and struggles with current ones and Chrono Cross and Photoshop and seeing a movie on Friday. He specifically avoided talking to her. When he did, it was in serious, official tones. 

"You should really start working on that." 

"Do you remember how to process those?" 

"Thanks for your hard work." 

His fingers were already telling her about the email he'd gotten that morning, the one from San Francisco, the one that probably wouldn't lead anywhere but sped his daydreams up to light speed, until the two topics, the girl and the email, commingled into a too-bright vision, like the last vestiges of a dream before you wake up with the sun in your eyes.

He skipped out early and walked across the street, fighting the wind, which tugged at his hair as if to insist that his arbitrary attempt at growing it out was foolish. He turned the corner and, seeing no sign of her, took a seat on a nearby bench, pulling out his phone and trying to look nonchalant. He waited for a few minutes, watching a nearby group of would-be sungazers with necks craned up to the overcast sky, seeking the transit of heavenly bodies.

It occurred to him that she might be waiting on the lower level. He walked over to the edge of the outdoor seating area above -- deserted due to the wind and chill -- and looked down. She sat on a carefully landscaped rock, shopping bag by her side, checking her watch.

For a moment, he pretended he did not see her. It was like a moment from a film: two people, waiting for each other, both knowing they were in the right place, at once together and alone. 

We never look up, he thought. We don't realize how close we are.


They sat across an unbalanced table that rocked every time he leaned forward. She sipped Sprite from a clear glass with a lemon wedge on the rim and asked about his family. 

He rambled, as he tended to do. 

He told her about the family dog, the one who had died while he was away but had clung to life through that Christmas so as not to ruin the holiday for the family. 

He told her about his brothers, how they seemed like distilled, concentrated versions of his contradicting selves, how they were able to focus and excel in ways he never could. 

He told her he was afraid that he would always end up with too many interests and no skill at any of them.

She looked at him then, her browns meeting his brown-green-hazels, holding them.

"That's ridiculous," her mouth said.

Her eyes said something else. He couldn't quite make it out.


They ate gelato next to Yanni. A poster of him, anyway. She squealed and said she'd have to get tickets. He made a mental note of the date and time. 

She looked out across the street at the darkening indigo of the sky and the bright orange of a Chinese restaurant, its walls aflame in the dying rays of the sun finally breaking through the gloom. (The astronomers will be happy, he thought.) He told her how, in their old building, the best view at sunset was not to the west. Turn away, he explained, and look east, and you will see the high-rises gleaming, and the side of the football stadium glinting, and the mountains and hills aglow. And you'll never want to move to San Francisco, or Seattle, or Italy, or anywhere bigger or smaller. Because the mountains mean home.

He didn't use those exact words, but that was the general idea.


They walked out into the rapidly cooling night, abetted by the frozen dessert still sharp on their tongues. They rounded the corner, past the ancient apartments that now housed pioneers of a different sort, those who preferred the street cred of the rundown and rickety.

"So..." she ventured, hesitating, "...was that a date?"

A hundred panicked responses sprang into his mind. He paused, taking in a breath.


"Good," she said. "I like dates."

He put his arm around her shoulder briefly, then let it fall. 

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