He hadn’t remembered that he didn’t wear jogging pants that day on purpose, nor that the jeans he picked out to impress her were years old, and he had grown out of them. He hadn’t remembered the lyrics to her favorite love song that he had recopied for her by hand, listening to the song off a cassette, rewind, replay, get the next verse. He hadn’t remembered his awkwardness, nor that one walk home he got, the one where he listened when she talked and talked more, the one where she held his hand.
Rosabel’s neighborhood didn’t have addresses on the houses because the architects thought it made the houses less dignified, and Christopher didn’t remember that either. Christopher’s father delivered mail there and used to complain about the lack of addresses. He had to memorize each family’s house with their trim lawns and flowers that Christopher tried not to step in now, his shoes, hand-me-downs from his brother, still a half-size too big, clumped down and made him clumsy. The jeans, tight down to his calf, his ankles exposed, made the shoes look even bigger. He was content to listen though, his head down, as Rosabel talked about her dog, her neighbors, the weather, her favorite trees, how she doesn’t like the house across the street, about their teacher, what she had for lunch today, and her new favorite book. Christopher was content to listen and not step in the flowers.
He was impressed that she read books. Christopher was paid a penny a page by his parents for every book he read but even that was never incentive enough.
“I just finished a book on each of the State birds. Did you know the Montana state bird is the Western Meadowlark and that their song is like a flute. It’s warbled, I read, which contrasts starkly from the Eastern Meadowlark, which has a whistle-like song. Do you have a favorite birdsong?” Rosabel asked.
“M-m-m-m-me? Well, I-I-I-I don’t know one bird song from another,” Christopher said.
“What if you had to pick one?”
“If I h-h-h-h-had to pick one?” Christopher dug his hands deeper into his pockets, his head more focused on his oversized shoes. “I suppose I’d pick the blackbird because if it’s good enough for the Beatles, it’s good enough for me.”
“Oh! You like the Beatles too!?” Rosabel was so enthralled to have come to this mutual understanding, this shared knowledge, shared enjoyment, that she jumped over and pulled Christopher’s cheek to her lips. “I’m so glad you like music. I like music. I listen to the Beatles and the…”
And she went on and Christopher listened, smiling now, his head up some. He looked around them, hoping that no one sitting on one of the many large front porches had seen them. Her house was not far from the school and Christopher knew this. He used to watch it to see if anyone would come out the front door in the few seconds his car would pass when his father drove him home from school. He wanted this short walk to last forever but he knew his father was waiting for him now as he walked Rosabel home and was worried his father would be angry. But for now, it was more important that his right cheek was still tingling and it had spread through his body like wild-fire. He felt it in his fingers and he took them out of his pockets to look at them. Rosabel grabbed one of his hands and held it, their fingers interlaced.
“Do you like any of those bands too?” she asked.
“M-m-m-m-me? I… well…”
Rosabel looked up and released his hand. “Here’s my house!” she said, and grabbed Christoper once more, quick and pulled that same cheek in close again. “This was great,” she said. “Just great. Will you walk me home again sometime? Great!” Off she went, bounding into the house, not turning around once.
Christopher stayed there and watched, his hand touching his cheek without him realizing it, his eyes wide-open, until again, he turned and looked around the block to make sure no one was watching. He took one last glance at Rosabel’s house just as the crickets started to sing, the school year almost over. The dusk air was beginning to hold some of the heat of the summer to come. Rosabel’s house was red like Christopher’s cheeks and he saw a lion on her porch next to the mailbox with a stone ribbon in its mouth.
“Heaton Residence,” it read. “1041 Fairoaks.”
“An address!” Christopher said and then, remembering his father there waiting. Christopher rain off down Fairoaks hoping to make it before his father left. Christopher ran as his shoes struggled to keep up, clumping on the ground, his knuckles digging into his palms, head up, smiling as the air rushed into his mouth. He felt the wind on his ears.
But Christopher remembered none of that. He hadn’t thought about it for many years since it happened. He never walked her home again. They both got older and Rosabel found new boys and new lovers and Christopher learned to love his books. He thought he remembered hearing a story about her years back but maybe it was someone else.
No, he hadn’t remembered any of it until a woman in a café with a familiar smell touched his shoulder and said, “Christopher. You were so important to me. I’ve wanted to tell you that.”
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