We never used the word ‘date.’ We were constantly ‘hanging out,’ even up to the end, and the texts afterward were still invitations to ‘hang out.’ But what’s funny is that that’s all it ever amounted to.
The first time we really did hang out. He picked me up in New Richmond and we drove, in his big blue Dodge diesel, around Cedar Lake Speedway up to Nye and back to Osceola where we parked in one of his dad’s fields. We sat on the tailgate soaking up the moonlight, country music playing in the cab, clear night punctuated by fireflies…you know, the sort of stuff that commercials and campy movies are made of.
I got it into my head that I wanted to catch fireflies in an empty beer bottle capped with my flip flop. My innate lack of prowess quickly became evident…so he took over and SLAP-SLAP, two bugs were floating in the bottle. I think it was then that I fell for him, dazzled by the twin lights trapped in the bottle, dazzled as I always am by random skills.
So we continued to ‘hang out’ over the summer and into the fall and winter. I met his family onece, but he never met mine. I didn’t really care or even want him to; our relationship had been built on a tenet of casualty, on the understanding that we lived our own lives during the week (excepting the 7am phone calls that came like clockwork and the 3rd shift whistle that governed his life, but coincided with my 8am class and quest for good parking). Sometime we went to parties, but mostly it was just us, driving in the night, alone but together like those bottled bugs.
He claims I was the one who left, which is true, I suppose–years of planning and dreaming came to fruition and I went abroad for four months. We e-mailed–no more phone calls–and I wrote him about London; taking classes in some of Western Civilization’s oldest classrooms; Wenceslas Square; the overall amazingness of the experience, and how invigorating everyday was.
I didn’t write about the loneliness, how I grasped at news from home like it was finely-filtered oxygen through holes punched in a lid. Yet somehow I remained oblivious to the tone and infrequency of his return e-mails that followed the same template: weather, factory, truck, weather.
When I came home things were different. I turned my phone cell phone back on and we talked and texted at first, but didn’t see each other. I watched with quiet desperation as his name moved down the “Received Call” list and his text responses took longer and longer til my phone never lit up with a “New Text” assigned to his name.
I flitted around for a long time before I was -SLAP- caught by another boy, a guy who wants to meet my family, wants to be involved and involve me. It makes me finally stop missing the smell of diesel and having to hop to get into a vehicle; to realize that I don’t have to be moving to connect with somebody, lazy conversations in bed on Sunday morning are almost better; to enjoy clear nights on the porch, sipping wine out of Riedel crystal. But the clear nights in the city are still foggy, and I wish that the stars could shine as brightly, or maybe I wish that I could trap the lights in my wine glass.
I wish the fireflies would come out.