Sometimes you sit in Starbucks and appraise young men. He will nod at a slim blonde in a way he thinks is inconspicuous; you will brush a strand of hair from your face and wish.
Then you will say, “You and blondes.”
And he will say, “All pretty boys are equal.”
It is not just about sleeping with him.
It is about him wanting a job in the city.
“You’ll visit me, of course,” he says.
“Of course,” you answer, and wonder at the shelf-life of such invitations.
Recall mother saying, “Everything spoils, dear.” Recall how she picked up a carton of Nesquik from the fridge, sniffed, and said, “When in doubt, throw it out.”
You proofread his resumes and cover letters and he buys you flowers to say thanks, then dinner at La Chambord when Averett, Free & Ginsberg offer him sixty grand a year starting.
“Sixty grand is nothing for the city,” you say.
“You’re right. Would be easier if I had a roommate—”
“You know I can’t. Mom—”
“You need to live your life,” he says.
He calls and says “I’m sorry” and you say “I’m sorry” and he says “It’s not my place” and he says “I’ll miss you” and you say “I’ll drive you to the station tomorrow.”
He doesn’t bother with a suitcase, only brings a backpack. “Just the essentials,” he says. It makes no sense and you tell him so and he says “I was thinking last night—I just want to start over. Completely fresh, you know? Like I always talked about. Just the clothes on my back. Won’t buy more till I have to.”
“You hate shopping.”
“It won’t be shopping. It’ll be gathering together the components of my new life.”
“Sounds like shopping,” you say, because it still makes no sense and, yet, you know this is what you will miss most about him, that he moves to the city with just a backpack.
He steps onto the train and waves. You watch from the platform as he settles into a seat. He mouths something you don’t catch.
You turn and go home, without waiting for the train to depart. You tell yourself not to look back—that he’ll change his mind, come running. So long as you don’t look back.
About the author:
Emil Ostrovski is represented by Laura Langlie of the Laura Langlie Literary Agency. He has had three other short stories published in Word Riot. His debut novel, tentatively titled To Grandma’s House With Socrates, will be released in 2013 by Greenwillow.