It’s funny when you meet people and they are someone you just met. That’s all they are until they’re more. Sometimes that more sneaks up on you. I was ambushed.
We were driving back to school and passed those water parks in the middle of the state: the Kalahari and the Great Karoo. Rustic log-cabin style hotel parks covered by composite images of African flora and fauna—geographically conflated adventure lands. I said they have to know that those are deserts, right? She said what does it matter, they’re selling water and gravity in shades of plastic. I think we’ve already been had. And I think that’s the real crisis—calling a thing what it’s not. We give the sun too much credit when we say it rises, but we’ll keep doing that. They do their jobs, the sun and those words, and we’re not asking for more. I was seeing silver silos and red barns huddled at the corners of cornfields before long. They were being honest with me, existing for practicality. She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of going back.
She says we should go downtown to that café where the barista is our friend. We’ll make her give us ice cream. She finishes her beer and squints into the sun as she looks over at me. I say I’d love to, but I’m not getting any ice cream. She says she wasn’t going to get any either. It was a reason to move together.
We were sitting in the park later that day, and I spilled my coffee in the grass. There’s an old train bridge that crosses the river at this park. Its rusted buttresses reflect in the murky spring flow. A pair of shoes had been tossed over a cable spanning the width of the bridge. The shoes swung back and forth in a breeze. I was tracing the shape of the liquid metal with my eyes when a heron began to dive at the reflection of the shoes over and over again. I guess it’s ok, she said, bringing me back to the bank. It’s just the grass. But you might get tired later. And I felt like for months I’d been walking around spilling my coffee in the grass, thinking it was ok and not worrying about how I was going to be so tired later.