by Yuvi Zalkow

This work of fiction was originally published in Narrative Magazine.

At first she acts like she is looking past you, like she is reading the sign on the restaurant behind you. She stands across the street, but it’s a narrow street, so you can clearly see her face, those blue blue eyes, she isn’t any older than thirty, and you see that she has this smile that isn’t related to a mere restaurant sign, it’s a smile like she’s looking at something familiar, something sweet, but maybe a little sad too, like it reminds her of her grandmother who is buried deep in South Dakota. You turn to see if something smiley and somber is going on in the restaurant, and of course nothing is — it’s dead in there — but when you turn back, she’s looking straight at you, and contrary to your normal avert-your-eyes manner, you look right back at her, you connect with this stranger across the street in a way that you consider rare.

So without taking your eyes off her, without looking for cars in either direction, you cross the street to talk to her. Who wouldn’t?

As you approach, you see that she is chewing gum, all casual and relaxed, like this happens to her every day: girl gives boy look, boy crosses street and makes a fool of himself.

She says that her name is Blue, like the color, and even though you’ve never met anyone named after a color, it doesn’t surprise you, there was something blue in her smile after all. You tell her your name, you tell her that you’re nervous, but at least you crossed the street safely. She says, “You didn’t get run over. That’s a good sign.”

“So what now?” she asks.

You want to tell her, “Let’s go to the beach, let’s go kayaking, let’s travel the world,” but what escapes is, “I once had a dog that got hit by a car and walked sideways for the rest of his life.”

“You are a strange one,” she says. “Do you want to see my new tattoo?” And of course you do, and she shows you the tiny great blue heron on her hip.

On your lips is the word blue, like a prayer, you whisper it over and over again, “blue blue blue.”

“Let’s go bowling,” she says. “I know a place that has guardrails so you can’t roll a gutter ball.”

Your first thought is, “Aren’t those for children?” But then you realize that a man as nervous as you are should accept all the guardrails that he can get.

On the way to the bowling alley, she says, “My son loves bowling.”

You don’t think to ask why she is walking to a bowling alley with a stranger and without her son; you don’t think to ask where the father is; you don’t think about how much more complicated this will all soon become.

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