They match on Tinder because they recognize each other from high school and both think it will be funny and harmless to swipe right. He messages her to ask what she is doing here, so far away from their stuffy little hometown, and she answers (career opportunities more affordable) on her walk home from work. The suggestion to get drinks is made and she doesn’t think much of it because she only knows him as the friend of a few guys she made out with during high school.
At the bar she asks do you miss it? and he asks what? and she says high school. He doesn’t, not the constant smell of dust and chemicals or always running late to class or lurking in the shadows of his more charismatic friends, the ones she had been linked to if his memory serves him correctly. He says no, not really. After ordering another round in the somewhat awkward lull that follows, he asks skeptically well do you?
She never did before, not the plaster walls or her long walk home or the way people whispered about her without cupping their hands in front of their mouths so that she could read the insults even if she couldn’t hear them. But I do, in some ways.
He watches her talk and nurses his drink and wonders where this girl was for four years in the same building, and why some connections aren’t missed so much as they are delayed.
I miss how important everything was. Getting the lead in the school play. Going to the right party. She smiles, her head tilting slightly to the side as she returns his shy stare. That first kiss at the end of the night. She doesn’t need to explain about grad school rejection letters or the man she loves who now lives very far away or how life post-college seems colorless at the edges like a constant dim vignette. It all mattered so much, she trails off, and his silence makes her nervous but he can’t find the right words to say she looks beautiful. He is tongue-tied and he is seventeen again.
Outside of the bar there is some negotiation of finding the closest subway station or using Uber or if Lyft is superior to Uber and she leans back against the brick wall of the building. She is checking the time on her phone and he wants to move closer, wants to touch the side of her face before she disappears again into just an odd story of online dating. Not online dating—cellphone app dating, which sounds even worse. He is trying to remember if they ever had a conversation as teenagers when she looks up from her iPhone and just stops. It is threatening to rain but it won’t because it never does and the air is thicker than it was when they stumbled out of the bar. She wants to say this, this is what I meant but that would ruin it, and then his lips are smooth against hers, still and cautious. Adulthood tastes like a West Coast IPA and she doesn’t like it but maybe it takes getting used to.
© Ella Dawson 2014