about 680 words
A Rainy Southern Night
by James Foley
America is where we hung,
And fell in love when we were young.
My youth passed fast: Windows 3.1 (1992)—Windows ’95—Windows ’98—Windows 2000 all the way to Windows 10 Pro, until my last semester of college.
And in that springtime of 2016, on a wet night, an attractive weird girl was working in the university cafeteria. Weird because I’d just been told that she was the daughter of U.S. Senator Samuel Archer.
And I was just sitting, half soaked from the stormy evening outside—tasting a cheese sandwich: which was wet with the rain dripping from my hair, veiling my view of that redhead cleaning tables.
What is she? I wondered: some student rebel? Working just to prove her proletarian credentials? Her independence from her father?
Now she was cleaning the table next to mine, which didn’t need cleaning. And as she came closer, pausing and turning towards me, she imperiously entered the universe of my existence. Or rather, annexed my existence to the universe of her existence.
Because, now our eye-beams were crossing. Our mutual stares were stalling out in a standing-wave pattern. And she was standing there, right in front of me—tilting that strangely glorious head: hair like sea grass under Windward Islands water.
Her eyes were the water.
And then dropping into a chair across from me: smiling, but waiting quietly until I finally said:
“That hair drives me stark raving nuts.”
“Redheads go gray fast, Jimmy.”
(My first words from her lips.)
“I guess we’ll have to live fast, then,” I said.
“I like fast,” she said.
Everything around was just college cafeteria things. Everything was normal. Everything was like every day. Everything was still everything.
But it was about to happen. One girl’s simple flesh and soul would haunt my days and derail my destiny for a long time—maybe forever, as this girl sitting across from me whispered the words:
“America is where we hung,
And fell in love when we were young.”
“Who wrote that?” I asked.
“Maybe you did,” she said. No smile of irony or amusement. Is she all there? Who is this girl?
“You wrote it yourself,” I told her.
“Maybe we’ll write it together,” she said.
Now a smile, but that of a lost creature. Distracted: mind floating somewhere a long way off.
But it was actually her, herself: the girl you’d been waiting your whole life to date: wild, mystifying, irresistible. And she was coming on to you.
Approaching you this rainy night, in the spring of your senior year at college.
A girl named Archer: Senator Archer’s daughter.
“Jimmy,” she said, “you’re staring so hard!”
I was laughing. I just said, “Anyone as bad-looking as you should be wearing an iron mask.”
And now she was the one laughing. “Oh, you’re such a poet! Do you want to see me again?”
“I don’t know. Anything as tempting as you has got to be illegal.”
“Keep it up, Jimmy. I love it.”
“How do you know my name?”
“That’s my secret. But you’re an aikidoka, right? Black-belt dan?”
“That’s a vicious rumor.”
“So you’re modest too.”
“My achievements were modest.”
“Are you like that about everything, Jimmy? You shrug everything off?”
“I wouldn’t shrug you off. What’s your name?”
“That’s secret too. But if you buy me an outrageously expensive dinner tomorrow, I may tell you.”
“I’ll marry you tomorrow if you tell me—or whether you tell me or not.”
“Mmm—sounds like a plan.”
Those first days of my new life were in March, 2016—at the vernal equinox, beginning of the Eastern New Year: one century after Cole Younger died in his home town of Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
And he’s buried there in the Historical Cemetery.
And this girl knew my name. But how explain her interest in me? Opposites attract? Because I was poor? Athletic? Straight? Sober?
Or was it inscrutable fate: karma cryptic?
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