At the end of his hometown pier, the water was cold and deep. Years ago he would ride his bicycle to the harbor and stand there to watch the winter sunrise. Now it was July and the breeze over the water sopped the heat from the air so that he could lean on the rail and feel only thin sweat beneath his shirt. He was thinking that he ought to come here more often. He said that to himself all the time, but the length of the drive kept him at home.
He was waiting for the music to begin in the hall on the edge of the beach. That would be his signal to go in. He didn’t dread these reunions like he used to because he’d seen that age was a great equalizer. Still, there were always those surreal moments when he said hello to someone who used to act as if they lived on another plane. He’d have flashbacks of how they’d looked, especially the girls, who’d seemed removed from him, even the ones he knew well. They used to spend Friday nights in Jilli’s basement and he’d sneak looks at her and Lisa and Colleen and Gabrielle and wonder how Warren and Peter and Whisk could act so normal, as if hanging in the basement with girls so close was the most natural thing in the world.
With other girls it was even worse. With others girls it took all he had to stand in one place and keep his eyes from shifting. He was good in English and sometimes this one girl stopped him in the hall to ask him questions before a quiz. She was perfect, played field hockey, ran three miles a day. Her body was all heartbreaking curves and she could stun him motionless just by saying hello.
Genevieve, her name was, which over the years became Gen. After graduation she had moved out west. He heard she’d divorced and moved back, into a house three blocks over from where she’d grown up. He guessed she was still attractive, though faded like the rest of them. In school she’d had the air of a girl who knew she was pretty and he wondered how she felt about aging.
When the band began tuning up he sighed and shifted his weight but made no move to leave. He heard voices, raspier than they’d been. Jilli was at the foot of the pier, calling for him to get his ass in there. He grinned and waved and turned back to the water for just another minute of quiet. Jilli wasn’t giving up, though. She’d always been like their camp counselor. He heard her clomping toward him and had to smile. Short and slight, even in summer sandals she could make noise when she wanted to.
In surrender he turned, then stopped. Jilli was disappearing into the hall and a taller woman was walking toward him in jeans and cowboy boots, a t-shirt extolling the mountains in Colorado. “Me, too,” she greeted him. “I need a place to catch my breath before going in there.”
She stopped a foot away from him.
“Hello,” Genevieve said.