Stephanie, the hard way

09Mar09

stephanieIt had been 10 years since I last sat in the oak tree across from Stephanie’s window at her parent’s house.  After her father banished me from their home in the 11th grade, we continued our courtship through a pair of tin cans connected by a long copper wire that stretched between her window and the tree.  Things didn’t work out in the end, but we still managed to stay close.

I was amazed to find the tin can and the copper wire still intact, wrapped around a leafy branch. Though the light in Stephanie’s room was off I knew she was in there, either asleep or counting sheep.  An old friend I ran into at the bar earlier in the evening told me she was back in town visiting her folks. I had no idea.

Putting my mouth up to the can I started whispering her name.  A minute later the room lit up with a soft orange glow and I could see blankets shifting at the edge of the bed.

“Knox?” a tired voice asked.

“Yeah, lady.  It’s me.  Did I wake you?”

“What do you think, dummy?” she yawned.  Her inflection, like always, was a playful hiss tinged with heavy venom.

“Yeah.  I think I woke you. But I’m not sorry about that.”

“Well, that’s good to hear. You had me worried there for a second.” Then, in a very matter-of-fact manner, “Why are you back in town? Do you need money?”

“No.”

“Are you sober?”

“More or less.”

“Where in the world have you been this time, KD?”

Stephanie was the only person who could get away with calling me KD. The name at first had bothered the hell out of me.  Over time I grew indifferent to it.  Later on in life, I found it endearing, proof that some shred of intimacy still lingered on between us.

“Ohio, mostly.  Bowling Green.  Drove there from Portland in just over two days.  Got a job working construction.  Residential.”

“All for the wrong girl again, I assume.”

“You know me better than I know myself, Stephanie.”

“Who was she?”

“Someone who, after six months of living together, told me that she had mistaken a mediocre lay for love.  I made it a point to salt her front lawn after she started bringing other guys home. That didn’t go over so well, especially when one of the dudes she had over was a landscaper.”

“You’ve always had a peculiar way of showing a girl how you feel.”

“You of all people should know. You broke my arm and my heart when I was 17. One of them healed in about six weeks.  The other didn’t. Can you guess which one?”

Stephanie laughed.  She assumed that I was joking.  A part of me wished that I had been. There are some girls out there that you never get over

“Your heart I might have broken, KD,” she bantered on. “But I can’t take credit for your arm. You’re the one who fell out of that tree.”

“You’re the one who wouldn’t take me back!” I mused, though, pathetically, I was still hopeful that one day she might.  “I’d rather you’ve broken my arm. And, while you were at it, both my legs!”

“That would have been far too easy.  For both of us.”

“I suppose you’re right,” I said, all-too aware that for her, it always had been too easy. After Stephanie hung up the tin can and went back to sleep, I walked the streets of our hometown til dawn, taking the longest way home I could think of.



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