“What took you so long?” she said.
I shrugged and bit my lip.
It took her a second, but she recognized I wasn’t Jake. “Colin?”
Her face softened. “What are you doing here?”
“In a philosophical sense? I don’t really know.”
She scoffed. “God, you guys are so much alike.”
“Really?” I felt a tinge of regret but pushed it away. Instead, I focused on her smile. And her eyes.
I took a breath – a big, pre-leap breath. You know the kind. It’s what you do before telling your boss you’re quitting or before telling a pretty girl you love her. “Yeah, about Jake. He, uh, he’s breaking up with you. He’s too much of an asshole to tell you to your face.”
She stared at me with those emerald eyes. For a second, I thought she was going to call me out, accuse me of murdering Jake, yell at passers-by to look around for a body. But then she laughed. “Nice try,” she said.
“No, no, I’m serious.”
“Yeah, I know what you’re doing, Colin.” She stepped closer and whispered, “Ever since you saw me and Jake doing it, you’ve been after me.”
“Oh, c’mon. Admit it.” She put a hand on my chest.
The image flashed in my mind of what this Colin guy might have seen — live pornography between a devilish, blonde-haired flirt and a replica of himself. It might have been pretty difficult to turn away from.
“I can see you’re remembering,” she said.
Imagining, actually, not remembering, but it wasn’t worth quibbling. Fantasy, memory – they’re more or less clones, aren’t they?
“Look, if you want to get down my pants, there’s a better way to go about it.” She ran her hand down my arm.
I touched her neck, entertaining the possibility of driving home with her at that moment. After all, it’s about not missing out, right? A barrage of images flashed in my mind – blond hair, disheveled couch cushions, long legs.
But here’s the thing; some opportunities are mutually exclusive. If one lives, the other must die.
So I left. I went home to Maggie.
It was a sobering walk. My aches and pains resurfaced. And the prospect of dinner wasn’t much consolation. But once through the front door, I saw Maggie on the couch, looking all cozy and cute. And only then did it dawn on me that I had just escaped death. Twice. Maybe three times. And now here I was, staring at my reason to live.
The brief and crazy notion entered my head that I could tell Maggie everything. I could confess it all. “It’s like a disease,” I’d tell her. “But I’m a survivor. I’ve got you and luck on my side. We’ll get through this. Together.” But instead, I asked, “Have I told you recently I love you?”
“Well,” she said, “you just bought Not Dogs. And I’m of the mind that actions speak louder than words.”
“Fair enough.” I got out the dogs and put them in the microwave. “Hey, you wanna go up to Mt. Hood this Saturday?”
She set her knitting down. “You sure you want to miss out on your bird thing?” she asked.
The microwave beeped.
“Oh, I’m not missing out.”
“Yeah. I’m positive.”
“Well, then, yes. I’d love to go.”