I Had Time to Kill
I already lost the long jump, scratching. I'd had a tempo in my steps,
knowing when to lift myself, after getting closer to the line, then up
and up and in the air until I landed. But I misjudged more than once. Disqualified. The winner was a girl I went to school with.
They did laps at the mall, then ate their Dippin Dots. Civilians came
through doors, dripping from their foreheads. They sat there in their
jerseys and their sweatpants, they'd lost count of the times they
passed Hot Topic, the teens in their nose rings and their purple hair
and Mohawks. The gym was closed. She put her cup down, said to him,
Hey Ranger, they kissed and he went to her: Oh Baby. They went back to
their apartment, where later they put on boots and hats and kevlar,
and he dug out their canteens, fixed and pocketed his compass, and she
stuffed their duffels. They rode a bus, a plane, and then they set up
tents there, where they marched and stood at ease and saluted at
attention. They spoke in a cadence. They hurried up and waited. They
stayed in line, pinching themselves.
She polished her husband's boots, using not the polish, but the
liquid. Then she did her own -- she could hardly tell the
difference -- they were boots like anyone's, and they only had to be
free of dirt and shining. She ironed now, going over the zipper on her
husband's trousers. Tomorrow he'd wear his blues, up against the
brass -- he'd talk to the commander -- he'd touched a girl, denied it, and
who was she. She listened to a beat and left the iron on his crotch,
almost burning it and then going down to the leg.
He had red hair and two kids and he came knocking on that first night.
Her son crawled, sucking his thumb, getting in-between them. "Welcome," the man said, giving her a cookie. He left his kids at home, since it was a duplex. He kissed her and she tore down the wall.
As he drove, she watched his profile: pimples on his cheek, fine hairs on his lip and two or three long ones on his chin. His ears were dirty and his hair was shaggy. He wore an earring that looked like an almond. He slowed, and then the car stalled. She thought about the drives they could take through the grape fields, maybe they could stop and pick some, losing headway. "It's okay," she said. The car moved, then stalled again. "A little gas," she said, "a little off the clutch." A horn went off behind in a long WAAH. She told him to be patient. He laughed and she told him to concentrate.
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