pandemic, loneliness, seperation, friendship, reacquaintance, reunion, fears, loss, contagion, love, lost love, fiction
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He was doing the dishes, midmorning, when he noticed the white car drive by, and drive by again. A quiet street, on the way to nowhere. At eleven, the school bus would show up, to deliver lunches to the children who couldn't go to school. Otherwise, almost no cars he didn't recognize.
The third time, the white car stopped in the parking strip in front of his house and Kit got out. She didn't wear a mask. It had been four years or maybe five. He shut the water off and dried his hands. She waited for him on the front lawn, the bright green grass.
Hello, Ted, she said.
Startling to hear his name in her mouth again. He said, What are you doing in town?
Oh, I got itchy feet. Thought I would come and visit my friend Marcelle. You remember Marcelle.
Crazy Marcelle, he said. Sure.
You said all my friends were crazy.
Not all of them. I still talk to Sheila.
Sheila, she said. Fuck. Where's Ellen?
She's at work.
They shut down for a while, he said. They're just doing takeout now.
Are you going to invite me in?
I'm not contagious.
How do you know?
Nobody knows anything, she said. But I already had it. Right at the beginning of the whole thing. Not the bad kind. [End Page 118]
There's a good kind?
Well, now I've got antibodies, a shitload of antibodies according to my doctor. I was on my last gasp for a week but I'm fine now. My friend Jason, the one that gave it to me? He got pneumonia and died. So yeah, there's a good kind.
I have mixed feelings. He did let me go on kissing him. He knew he had it.
But you're okay now.
Better than okay, she said. I'm immune.
She smiled at him then, a small, opaque, false smile. Then said, You want to go to the park?
Ride with me?
I'll meet you down there, he said. I'm trying to be careful.
I told you I'm not contagious.
I'll meet you down there, he said. When he went inside, the Bluetooth box was still playing next to the sink, Michael Barbaro explaining the world. The voices in his head had all started sounding like Michael Barbaro. The half-done dishes in the sink. Should he go to the park? He could just not. He could just skip it, and there were reasons not to, lessons learned.
He shut the box off, let the dishes be.
It was only three blocks to the park. The white car in the parking lot, some kind of big American boat, a back seat full of road-trip trash.
California plates, he said.
I live in Alameda now, she said. She sat at a picnic table in the shade, dappled sunlight, high spring. She said, I just woke up one morning in Seattle and it was raining for the hundredth day in a row. Life is too short.
She wore a blue sundress, a lavender fuzzy jacket and hiking sandals. Her feet were small and pretty and her nails were vivid red. She had a water bottle and looked like she was coming from or about to go on a hike. Chameleon, he remembered, always dressed to fit in. On the river she looked like a guide. In Paris, their one major breakaway, the shop clerks and ticket sellers addressed her in French, mistaking her for one of their own.
She said, What's new?
Nothing much. Same house, same job. We lost Nessie last year.
I was going to ask.
She was sixteen, he said. A pretty good run.
And I quit drinking. No kidding. How come?
For a second, he thought of telling her the truth but decided not to. He said, I don't know, it just felt like it was...