He saw her by accident walking on the sidewalk outside the restaurant where she used to work.It was the night after Thanksgiving.She had come back into town to visit her parents and cover obligatory holiday reunions with other relatives.This short stop over allowed her to spend New Year’s Eve where she wanted to,back at school in Minnesota.
Complete surprise for both of them.They had not seen each other in more than two years.Both of them looked very different than they had ever seen each other look.She wore a wide brimmed Amish type hat held on by a black silk ribbon tied under her chin;but he glimpsed her close cropped hair.Her thick,dark black hair was even shorter than the “severe Joan of Arc” look that he remembered her wearing.A mistake? Did her stylist overdo it? With her black fur collar up all he really saw was what he most cherished-her always glorious Botticelli face.
She was with some long time mutual friends of theirs and some obscure male companion.They all chatted and reminisced a bit then disbursed.Everybody exited the scene except him and her.Just the two of them left standing in the frozen parking lot.He would drive her home.
They talked of her solo drive a few months ago out west to college from her Midwest home.And he told her of his current writing projects and endeavors.She asked if he stilled lived at the same place.Her face brightened with personal remembrances of warm nights and sunlit afternoons there.
It was so good.She was better than perfect.There was a glow then,there in the car.The long absent camaraderie.Honest emotion.Real communication.Unlike the one other time that they had met since their break up;their words and amiability flowed easily.It was a delicious drive.
After they stopped in front of the house where she was staying;the main thrill and surprise came.She said that yes she had received all those unacknowledged letters that he had sent and that she even reread them sometimes.She mentioned that she had posted some near her toaster shelf for days to dig certain lines like,”…in a dream or in a drunk,it all still matters”.
He was taken aback.He replied that it would be a real delight if she would write him back.She said that this,being here with him was a delight in itself.
He was enraptured.He reached into his glove compartment for a pen to write her his new address.As he opened the car’s glove box something happened.Everything from the private depository of his soul tumbled out.Every gift,every scribbled poem or written impression or expression that he would ever put on paper about or dedicated to her;all the artifacts of his affection now or ever;ribbons yet to be tied;rings of gold;photos of them together not yet taken;presents for anniversaries to come.Some kind of physical manifestation of his most personal thoughts about her.Every sketch,every impression,everything past,present,or even future that he had created or was to create in response to her,tumbled out of that tiny personalized compartment into her lap and piled up.Past her waist,covering her stomach,accumulating above her solar plexus,finally rising,rising and engulfing her breast and then her heart.
A panicked second passed.Then feeling a combination of incredulousness with some,slight vague sense of relief;he scooped up the miraculous pile off her lap and began shoving it all back into the glove box as fast as he could.He somehow stuffed it all back from whence it came.
What could he possibly follow that with? She had seen everything.Nothing to hide.Nothing to camouflage or divulge.No real point in explanation or elaboration.He saw amazement,trepidation,affection,but mostly bewilderment in her eyes.
Calling on long dormant reserves of gallantry and charm,he took her hand and kissed it.Then he told her goodnight and goodbye.
As he drove away the moon rose over the rooftop of a nearby steel foundry.The foundry manufactured blue steel.The cold blue steel of artillery and ammunition.