Part 2, Chapter 8
“Whoop!” she whooped as I knocked on the screen door leading into the little kitchen. In a blur of arms and brown hair and jeans, there she was in front of me opening the door, being casually stunning. “You came!”
“I know! I’m sorry I’m late. Here is some banana bread I made. There are walnuts in there.”
“Thank you!” She took it and put it somewhere, beckoning me into the cabin. “My parents are out taking a walk. Come take a tour!”
Cabin was a pretty good name for the interior. For all the prettiness outside, inside was a cozy mixture of wood paneling and huge windows. It was a perfect summer vacation home. We walked through the foyer-slash-kitchen-slash-mud-room into the living room, which was dominated by a massive window showing Portage Lake. To the left of the window was a little partitioned off area (there was a curtain rod with a swept-aside curtain acting as a divider) with just enough space for a bed, some suitcases, and a bedside table overflowing with books.
“I was beginning to wonder if you knew when teatime was,” she giggled. “Do you like my bedroom?”
Turning around, she then showed me her parents’ room and the bathroom, inviting me to keep out and help myself, respectively.
Details begin to resolve. There was a big table in front of the picture window with a 15% complete puzzle on it. There was an acoustic guitar in a case beside the fireplace, which was behind the sofa. The sky above the lake seemed above the legal limit of blue.
I was initially afraid of meeting her parents, not unusual given the extent to which I am initially afraid of meeting anyone, but once they walked in and her father started asking me physics hypotheticals as, like, conversation (consider a fluid dripping slowly onto an infinite flat surface, etc.), I felt totally at home.
We escaped alone off to dinner, Hot Copy Editor and I, chattering flirtatiously so much that we have to force ourselves to focus on the menus long enough to choose what turn out to be the exact same meals, requiring further negotiation and consultation viz-a-viz who would choose a backup and who gets the first choice (I let her win, naturally), because you just can’t go and order the same thing at a restaurant with a girl.
After dinner, the next stop was a supermarket for marshmallows and chocolate and graham crackers as the sun was starting to get extra yellow in preparation for the other colors to come. The house, the restaurant, and the little supermarket all seemed stuck in approximately 1983, style-wise. We stopped back at the cabin to rummage around for some newspaper and firewood in the nearby shed, then I drove her up to the beach of the real lake, Lake Michigan. We built a fire in the sand while the yellow turned to oranges and reds reflected in the baby lake-waves.
The fire wasn’t easy to build, but we worked collaboratively and used teamwork. I pretended my manliness would help. She claimed supremacy in terms of intuition. Eventually we got the marshmallows roasting, and ended up eating way too many s’mores while watching the sun drop below the horizon.
As the stars were variously deciding that there’s already been more than enough twilight, we’re burying each other’s feet in the beach’s sand and throwing the rest of the logs on the fire. There’s talk of old boyfriends and girlfriends. Laying back in the sand, we make up names for constellations that we can’t identify (I think she knew the right names, but my lack of astronomy knowledge is actually kind of disgraceful for someone who both has a physics degree and went to space camp) and she hires me to be the movie reviewer for the Arts and Entertainment section of the campus newspaper, newly her responsibility, a fact that will eventually require me to stop calling her Hot Copy Editor.
Nothing, like, happened. We just talked.
The stars had shifted significantly by the time I brought her home to the cabin, and her parents had been long asleep.
I bundled into my sleeping bag as she dropped into bed with the curtain between the living room and my bedroom still open. As I fall asleep to her increasingly regular and audible breathing, I’m thinking: why the hell does she have to have a boyfriend who isn’t me?
I dreamt vividly and hypothetically of making out with her.
I woke up once in the middle of the night. There was very little moon, so it was just starlight that gave a sense of unreality to the entire cabin. I become sleepily aware of quiet whimpering, then realize that there is whimpering because Hot Copy Editor is having the cutest nightmare ever into her pillow on the other side of the room.
Should I go wake her up? No, I’m already well on the wrong side of all kinds of ambiguious boundaries. I’d better just leave her alone. She’ll be okay.
I rolled over and went back to sleep.