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Missed Connections

Summer’s end

Your eyes are like honey. Your brows are like smooth thick fluffy caterpillars. Charlie snorted. Out her window, blue peeped over the edge of darkness. We lay in her bed longer, talking dawn, until drawn back to our first subject, Summertime. I’d never heard that song before she showed it to me. She smilingly scoffed.

What, am I supposed to have heard every song already? She claimed that she had heard every song already but she’d give me a few more days to catch up. Not much time left. We had agreed to go when the season ended. Yes, we agreed. 


Fall, year two 

–We lost connection– she texted, then called, “this is quicker. Where you at?” 

“Forgot about the tunnel, be there soon.”

My train came out, sky white for a second, fading to blue. I hung up with Charlie, eyes adjusting to the daylight. In the seat in front of me a guy bowed over his phone, looked up for a second squinting. Squealing to a stop, the guy went back to bowed.

Walked from the stop to the end of the block, under the statue, then up Park in the shade between the streets. Above, boughs creaked, crooned to me, came nearly together, but let light through. Farther up somewhere, soprano children chirped. I passed a fountain strung with fairy lights then spotted Charlie perched on a wall. 

“Hi stranger,” she slid off the wall, bopped up to me.

“I never know what to do. When are you supposed to wave when you see someone coming? Are you supposed to meet them or just sit there and wait? How are you? How’s life?”

She brought her brows together in a serious frown... “I was born on a stormy Sunday.”

We went into our favorite cafe, Deja Brew, glass walls, low ceiling, bright, sure, but somehow still dim. Barista behind the counter, bowed until we got to the edge.  Charlie suggested a breve, “Breve was the soul of wit,” she said, eyebrows bouncing. 

“Oh god.” 

“You love it,” she smirked.

“How was your trip in?” She said leaning across our table. 

“It was well, except I forgot about the tunnel. Don’t get out much ya know?” 

“Absol-lutely. I live under a rock” she said.  

“Do people living above rocks look down on people living under them?” I said. 

Charlie stroked her chin knowingly, “people living under mossy rocks think they’re so much better than us... Speaking of moss, do you still climb trees?” she said. 

So I told her, I wasn’t, but had summited Bald Canyon Ridge earlier this summer. Tried again during the heatwave, but didn’t make it to the top. We chatted longer, trying to avoid work talk. We talked about talking about work. We talked about trying not to talk about work. “You know when you talk about work your brows look like caterpillars kissing.”

She boomed back laughing, just a moment. We could have been more than a season. Of course we could have, yes. But would that have been better? It might have been better, would have been more. And more is better, isn’t it? How much is best, then, everything? 

“Do you think they have tea-sommeliers or just wine?

“Of course,” Charlie said. 

“Did you know I once saw a guy run into a bus bench because he was bowed on his phone.”

“I’m terribly surprised.”

Charlie finished her foamy thing and we headed toward midtown. “I got to take the excuse when I can get it.”


Summer, year four

Texted Charlie, 

–why a hundred at night. F –

Charlie asked how was your hot day. 

–They did not plan for this in your city, no central cooling, no window units allowed, fourth floor–

It was my punishment for being thrifty. Not worth saving a little money. Hopefully I would get a new job that would foot the bill when they sent me somewhere. 

Charlie told me she stayed out of the house today, got to the park in the shade in the morning then to the mall, it’s always cool there. By the way, the mall was packed today. 

–You went to Claire’s didn’t you – I texted.

–Yes totally of course– bubbles... –110%– 

–What’s new?– 

Charlie was considering a new job too, getting back to her roots, something in management. 

–Could you possibly manage to turn down the heat??– 

–No, but there is AC here– she texted back.

–Is that why you’re so cold?–

–How dare you–

–If you’re cold I can come to warm you up.– 

–But it’s a heat wave...– 

Your eyes are like honey. She smiled, hands on my sides. Funny how it all rushes back. Year after year everything grows smaller, but comes back fast, comes all-the-way back. The dawn, the hum of the space heater, the air splashing my face awake leaving Charlie’s place in the mornings. The midday messages, something about class, something about the future, something about how all the professors are out of a professor catalog with their berets and tattoos. Something about the first warm afternoon let’s skip class and sit in the grass together. Under the wide tree, layers piled on a blanket. 


Year seven

Bus ride home. Cold. Weeknight, no big plans. I got home around seven, phone quiet. Got to the apartment door and heard voices. Wondered if she had someone over. Her friend was out of town so I didn’t know who it was. Walked in, hello what am I hearing. It was a podcast. She was at the sinks, cleaning while cooking. It smelled like some kind of baked thing. Hello, hello, how was your day. So I told her about it. That smells nice I said. What are you up to this weekend? She said while I walked to my room. I put up my shirt, but didn’t have the oomph to put up my pants this time. I don’t know. What about you? She was going to the store, then to the park, then to the grocery store, maybe for a walk. 

Later I baked salmon for us. Over dinner, I remembered what I was doing that weekend. My company was sending me to the city. Few days, few meetings, not too much time to myself. That must be nice, she said. She said, you know, if you want to, if you connect with an old flame, if you do, that would be alright. If you do, be safe. No big plans. I don’t know if she knew, she may have known, that Charlie lived in the city. But it was a work trip, no big plans.


Three weeks later

In the mirror he caught my eye. “You want it up?” 

“What?” I said.

“Do you want the window up?”

He kept it open, the city air coming in. He was a fast driver, good since I was fashionable. I may have been to The Reading Room years ago, but didn’t recognize this place. Stared out the window, felt the familiar cab feeling when we hit a turn, we lurched to a stop, we blurred to a corner. There we waited for a man to cross. The man pushed a baby stroller, piled-high with bags of cans. Pushing where? There is nothing here. 

“You like The Reading Room?”

“What?” My eye followed the crossing man until I lost sight of him. “Yeah, it’s been awhile, my friend invited me,” we swooped around a pothole. 

The Reading Room was dark, low tables and reclined chairs. Why would the chairs be so far apart if it is this loud? Charlie waited in one, pouted her power pout over a drink. Next to us, a smiling guy sat, bowed. He bobbed, bowing and looking up, bowing, checking the door. Charlie and I chatted. 

“There’s no way it can all be horrific,” Charlie said, “of course the words we use will change, but if everything is horrific, where do we go from there, for something worse?”

“Right, like ‘They scheduled me two Saturdays in a row.’ How can this meet the bar?” 

“The only constant is change,” she said.

“The only constant is the powerhouse of the cell.” 

Charlie snorted. “This is what I’m saying. This is exactly what I am saying. There’s nothing new. Copies of copies. Videos of memes of screenshots of historic quotes” she said...

“Summertime was new.” I said. Her big brows jumped. 

“No it wasn’t, it was decades old,” she smilingly scoffed.

“Maybe the point is that it was new to us.”

“You’re still a philosophical bastard aren’t you,” Charlie laughed. 

She couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard it before. Had I heard anything new lately... No, no tree to lie under, valley to climb, no new song, new nothing. Just bowing over a device. Bowing lower and lower but never getting an answer. Pretending to get an answer. Pretending to be busy. The smiling guy next to us looked up, turned to the table next to him “Kathleen?”


“Are you Kathleen?”

 “Sorry. No.”

I turned to Charlie, “Do you ever get that feeling that you are still waiting to graduate? Move-on to real life. Something like that.” 

Charlie looked to the bar, line of couples, bowed, lots of them. “I don’t. I just do what I am supposed to.”

“But how can you know?” 

“Know what?” 

“Know what you are supposed to do.” 

We left after Kathleen finally arrived, waiting for drinks with the smiling man. I bumped him, bowed, said nothing. 

Out to the intersection, five blocks, smoke, cigarettes, sidewalk bubblegum, crowded with bowed heads. What were they reading that they didn’t know already? Charlie walked in front to weave, arms swinging a wide arc. We weaved the sweat smell to midtown. 

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner? You could have told me you loved me.” 

“If we had known, what would we have done differently?”

“Would we have just made new mistakes?”

“I guess we move on.” 

“We were a moment. A good moment. And the moment is passed.”

Texted after I was home –It was really nice to see you– 

–You too! Let’s hang soon– bubbles... –Or wait a few more years haha–



Walking the summer city to my new apartment, I passed a building that had been scaffolded for a year, maybe more. Grand opening of Honey Capp Cafe. Smiling, I thought Charlie would have dragged me there no doubt, in another life, or the other way around. As for this life... I realized then, I couldn’t let go of our connection because it was not her that I was holding, it was me. She brought out that side of myself that I missed. And that was mine to keep. 

By Andrew Gallagher


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