Teen-aged, Pretty

I said I would stop by, though I didn’t think I would, but then I found myself parking the car anyways in front of her house.
There were dried flowers hanging upside-down from the ceiling and a mattress beneath the window curtained from the outside by yellowed bougainvillea sepals. There was a Bjork poster on the back of the door, an antique dresser, sundry silver things and candles, Bouguereau prints: all of it just anthemically pretty and teen-aged and nicely enclaved.
What do you want to listen to?” she asked, this, back then, being the earmark and most important question you could ask. From her CD tower (when that was something you had as bedroom architecture) I chose ‘This Mortal Coil.’
“Good choice,” she said, prim hostess of her bedroom, turning on her heel while administering the disc into a plastic bookcase stereo.
We were friends by nature of a few shared phone calls, the idea that we could ‘maybe hang out’ being that unspecified adolescent thing.
She showed me albums of photographs–all her friends with their wild-colored hair and vintage clothing–the people I wanted to be, but wasn’t.
I left sweaty prints, apparently, on the photograph sleeves because I have hot hands, but she took it to mean I was nervous, which maybe I was. It made her gentle.
I called a song ‘pretty’, and she said boys don’t usually call things ‘pretty’, but she said it smiling, like she had discovered a new species of flower, there hiding in the grass.
Later, she said: “You’re the saddest boy I know,” saying it slow like it was something of a marvel or a revelation, but she kept her smile while we sat across the room from each other, and when I left that day, I knew I’d have to see her again. I really liked her smile.
That was twenty years ago.
I arrived home this evening and the TV was on, but broadcasting to an empty room, all suspect of course. I voiced loudly, “Nobody home, I guess,” while putting down my bags, “Awesome!”
On cue, Cayde rolled out from beneath the couch, and Jenn burst through the bedroom door, arms splayed; Finn followed Jenn’s lead and pounded into the living room with outstretched starfish limbs–Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!–looking to be swept up.
“Surprise!” everyone shouted, and I had a lot of hugs, which is the greatest thing to come home to. Two decades, me and Jenn. My Jenn, my girl, my happiness.

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