by Brian Greene
Lisa and I walked in the woods. August in the late morning. I got blinded when the sun hit the silver on the ring she wore on her slender index finger. I couldn’t stop looking. The greens and browns in the forest blended with the yellow in her hair and the green of her shorts and the summer brown on her long legs. Her words sounded like a song as she told me about all the pets she’d had in her life, their names and quirks. Oscar limped when anybody yelled at him. Bootsy liked to eat tortilla chips. I was dizzy and content. I knew there were things I should be worrying about, but when those thoughts started to come I asked Lisa a question and as she answered in her sing-song voice, the troubled thoughts were subdued for the moment.
We went to my place. I put on a record. Spacemen 3. Lisa’s face was close to mine as “Come Down Softly to My Soul” played. The air and the space in the room were closing. I smelled perfumed leaves. Lisa made lazy circles around the top of my head with her long fingers. She said, “I had a dream about us last night. That’s why I had to see you today. There were a lot of balloons in the dream.”
Later, sleep. I dreamed that I was about 10 and with a girl of my age at a beach. She had long brown hair and eyes that danced around when she laughed. We were chasing a multi-colored ball down the beach. It was a race, to see who could reach the tumbling ball and grab it first. I kept beating the girl to the ball but every time I went to consolidate my victory by picking up the ball, it slipped out of my grip and kept rolling down the sand. It was frustrating and exhilarating.
When I woke up, Lisa was crouched in front of me. Her green eyes looked warm, and worried. She talked. Something about a trip she was going on. I couldn’t follow the sentences but I caught the highlighted words. “Europe. Tomorrow. Six weeks.” I pictured a prisoner making hash marks on the wall of a cell, to count down the remaining days of his sentence. The worried thoughts broke through and now Lisa’s voice couldn’t stop them. Work. Money. Friends. Family. Always some bothersome thing bearing down.
Lisa pulled the barrette out of the back of her wavy blond hair. It was one of those wide leather barrettes, with the little stick that goes through the two holes. When I was in third grade my teacher wore one of those all the time. The teacher used to take us outside and play her guitar and sing us songs like “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” and “If I Had a Hammer.” I felt crushed when we had to let go of the music and the grass on the playground and surrender to the inside of the dreary building. The barrette looked pretty in the teacher’s hair when she sang and played guitar, but it looked average when she gave a lesson on decimals.
Lisa handed me the barrette. She put it in my hand then covered my hand with hers. Squeezing my clenched hand with her barrette inside it, she talked. I heard all the words now. She said, “Keep it in your pocket. If things get bad when I’m gone, hold it.”