Overdue Goodbyes

You never heard it at the time, of course. But, you were the sunshine of 8 a.m. freshman calculus class. All easy smiles, quick laughs, and bright eyes sitting next to me.

You never acknowledged the scowls and leers the other boys gave us, setting your sights on a certain unworldly someone instead.

You were always there with a ready question or small talk afterward in the breezeway.

“Do these pants look all right to ya?” You twirled around before me, laughing, seemingly unaware of your tongue-tying anatomy. “My lil’ brother keeps stealin’ my jeans, an gettin’ ’em all grass stains. He drives me crazy!”

I must have answered something, but it didn’t occur to me then what you sought.

Another day, you asked for missed notes. “I just love that accent. Where ya from?”

You received a terse, no frills answer.

“I’ve never been there. Maybe some day,” you replied, keeping the mostly one-sided conversation going.

You heard my thickheaded stammering question. “What dorm do you live in?”

“I don’t live on campus. I commute … to save money.”

Sometime later, you asked, “What’s your phone number? I mean, just in case I need to talk to ya about the homework.”

I gave it to you too quickly. “I’m missing chemistry lab. Gotta go!”

Another time, you spotted me passing by the bookstore and ran over.

“Hey! I was wonderin’ … ya goin’ to the game?”

I was non-committal. Important things needed my attention, I suppose.

“I’m going. But, I’m not sure who to cheer for. Did I tell ya that my parents were cheerleaders at Auburn?”

I shook my head.

“Maybe I’ll just close my eyes.” You laughed.

The final exam came all too quickly. Again, you spotted me in the crowd waiting to enter the exam room. “Hey, sweetie.” You leaned in gave me a quick hug, surprising us both, I thought. Then they opened the doors and everyone filed in.

You took a seat next to me and offered to take my books with yours to the front of the room, when the instructor told everyone to do so.

Your perfume clung to me through the hours of the exam, though I tried to push it aside to focus on the questions, the work that needed to be done.

When I was finished, you were already gone. As were my books.

Flustered, I left the exam room into the sticky Southern heat and eye stinging sunshine. And, there you were sitting on the edge of the planter box, a wall of bushes sporting autumn colors behind you.

“How’d ya do, sweetie?” you asked in your Georgia lilt.

“Good, I think.”

“Yeah, it wasn’t too bad. I think I did really well.” You beamed. “Took ya long enough though!” you teased.

“Do you know where my books are? I couldn’t find them up—”

“Oh.” A funny look crossed your face. “I guess I took them … by mistake, of course.” You jumped up. “I’ll go check my car.”

I started to follow you, but you said, “Wait here.”

Minutes passed and finally, you returned with the missing books.

Handing them to me, you bit your lower lip.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Sorry about that, sweetie. I, ah, …”

I shrugged, just happy to have recovered my books. “It’s not a big deal.”

“Are ya taking the 8 o’clock calculus next quarter?”

“I’m not sure,” I said.

A dark cloud passed overhead, and you looked away, shifting your weight from one foot to the other. “Feels like rain …”

“Well, I guess I’ll see you later,” you said, and I nodded.

You never did.



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