By D.L. LeGere
“Jump in,” she said. Catie with a “C.” We met at a party the weekend before. She’d written her phone number on the back of my hand. I’d been too drunk to remember much else besides the name and the smile. A hell of a smile.
We stood on the rickety dock to the lake that I’d been visiting since I was twelve, since my aunt bought the house, and my father bought the boat. No longer a boy, not yet a man. The strength in my limbs hadn’t been there before. Nor had the facial hair, sparse but hinted at the future. Nor had the strain across my neck and shoulders, press of adult responsibility—get a job, keep a job, pay off student loans, find a better job, invest for the future, oil changes, groceries, 401K, technology, taxes, buzzwords, water coolers, how’s your day, coworkers, handshakes, how’s the weather, how’s the weather, how’s the weather, boy it sure is cold out, man it’s nice out, how’s the weather.
I’d changed in fourteen years. The lake hadn’t. Same smell, slightly metallic from the motor boats, nostalgic. The sound of waves lapping the shore and music from a house a few docks down. Led Zeppelin. That guy always listened to Led Zeppelin. Danny. Water skied barefoot. Once hydroplaned a snowmobile from one end of the lake to the other without sinking. He moved a few years later. Alcoholic. Divorce. Words you heard more often as an adult. I was told he just liked the party too much. Who didn’t?
“Come on,” she said. “This. Right now. Just us.” So insistent. I barely knew her. I didn’t know her. I knew her smile. And her name. Catie with a “C.”
Her heart-shaped face, accented by the light of the full moon overhead seemed ethereal, prophetic, as if I’d waited my entire life for that exact moment to occur. Or maybe I just wanted a moment like that to occur. I’d read about them. I’d seen them in movies. Was that my moment?
“My clothes,” I trailed off half-heartedly gesturing at what I wore, jeans, leather shoes, button down, company cellphone in my pocket.
“Come on,” she pressed. “This. Is. It.” She clipped off each word with certainty.
How could she be so certain? What gave her the right? What book had she read that I hadn’t been privy? What lessons did her parents teach her?
“I…I…” I stammered. “I don’t know.”
“Let’s jump.” She stood balancing at the very edge of the dock, no longer looking at me but out at the blackness of the lake.
What did she see?
Could it all be so simple?
I pulled my phone out, intending to leave it behind and stepped up beside her. The rest, screw it. I’d leap in fully clothed. The dock bobbed slightly, a cool breeze hung in the air. I looked down at the phone still in my hand. Unbidden, the thought rose to the surface like a turd that wouldn’t flush how’s the weather. My chest tightened. I held the phone in my hand, wishing I could be more but not knowing what that meant. My breath caught. I held the phone in my hand, grateful for the dark so that Catie with a “C” couldn’t see the tears forming in my eyes. Staring beyond the black sheen of the lake that I’d spent almost my entire life jumping into, I said, “Let’s go back in the house.”