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  • R.T.

Little Cherubs

I have to say, she was really quite pretty. There was something about her eyes that drew me in. They were greenish; every time I looked at them, though, they changed colors. They weren’t greenish then, when I was watching her, forgetting that I was watching her so intensely. Normally, I’m good about recognizing when I’m staring: people will turn away shyly or they’ll dart their eyes around, never returning my same intense gaze. I have an intense gaze, but I’m never aware of it. I’m only aware of it when other people have an intense gaze too. I think that’s what made me like this girl all the more; I think that’s what made her all the prettier: her eyes never stayed the same green or blue or brown—that’s what hazel means—and she had an undetermined gaze.

We were in a coffee shop in Boston. I don’t live in Boston, but my brother moved there after he graduated and I had gone up to visit him. He found a nice little place with a rooftop terrace and a swimming pool indoors. It would’ve been much too cold to swim outside; it was winter, so I wouldn’t have thought to swim anyhow. Because the pool was indoors, I’d take a swim at some point—only a quick swim, and only once.

“So you know Sam, back on the west coast?” I said, still intense with my stare.

“I do. I took a trip with her. She never stopped talking about you,” she said.

“We get along really well, me and Sam. Everyone thinks we’re dating. We’re not, but everyone says we should.”

“I think I could see it.” She was nervous.

“I can’t. I mean, she’s awesome, but I’m not so sure.”

“You’re not so sure?”

“No, not really. I mean, I’m just not so sure.”

The coffee was bitter. She chose the place, said it had good coffee. I can’t say I know coffee though, only that I know caffeine. Coffee is more than just a heart rush for some people, but for me, that’s all coffee is. It’s a better way to get my heart rushed than that fake shit. I got addicted to that fake shit at the stores, those energy drinks. They claim mental alertness as if it’s a different kind of alertness from coffee. It never made much sense to me, that fake shit.

“Why Boston? I’m sure it was because of college, right?” I asked.

“I didn’t really have anywhere else to go, you know? I mean, I could find a job somewhere, I’m sure. I could go Midwest, which is where I was born, in North Dakota. I’d like to live in North Dakota again—at some point, anyways.”

“Really? North Dakota? I guess it’s warmer here.”

“It’s a different kind of warm. It doesn’t make your nose hurt and your ears hurt, but it keeps you layered. I like it here, I just don’t have many options.”

“Yeah. I get that.”

We both drank from our coffee. They were gone quickly. I offered to buy more, but she declined and only I got some more. I needed it, I think. I’m not sure I totally needed it, but I thought I did. It made my heart rush and then it made me talk more. I’m such a quiet person; I like that rush caffeine gives my heart.

“What brought you all the way over here? You’re from the west coast, right?” she asked.

“Yeah. I’m up here to see my brother. Actually, I’m staying in his apartment building. I don’t have any plans to, but it has this pool there. It’s heated. I’d like to go, but I don’t have any plans. Would you like to?”

“It’s a bit awkward for me, actually. I don’t know how to swim. I never learned.”

“That’s not awkward. I could teach you?”

“No, no. That’s okay. I don’t have any need to swim.”

“Seriously, I can teach you. It’s not hard, trust me.”

“Swimming just doesn’t seem necessary. I won’t ever need it.”

“Swimming is entirely necessary. Think about how the world would be if you swam.”

“I’m not sure I get it.”

“No, never mind. Forget that, but really, you should learn to swim. Really, I can teach you.”

“I mean, when would we even?”

“Today. Right now.”

“I don’t know."

“You don’t need to.”

“I don’t know.”

“Just do it. A leap of faith. I’ll catch you. You won’t drown.”

“Alright. Alright, fine.”

We left the shop and walked for some time, meandering through Boston; had started to fill our day with it, working up the courage to follow a direct route. We didn’t want to set on a direct route yet. A direct route meant the pool, and I didn’t want to swim yet.

We passed through the park and saw fresh grass freshly frosted over. I kept looking over at her and noticing that I had developed a taste. I had a taste in women, something I didn’t really recognize. I’d dated plenty of girls who were much like myself—not so brash but stoic or easily regarded in conversation—but this girl, as I started to notice; as I started to recognize, was very cute; meek, even. I liked meekness. Not that being meek means you’re shy—being meek means you're cute. You have to be cute if you’re meek, and everyone loves a cute, meek girl—not everyone is attracted to them, but I am. Perhaps I am because I’m stoic. I guess I only ever see stoic men with meek girls. I begin to wonder whether or not that means I’m sort of typical? You have to be typical to follow the typical things, right?

“I think you’re rather meek. I like it. It’s cute.”

“Really?” I couldn’t see her face behind her scarf. She spoke rather soft, so I leaned in closer, but I think she thought it was a move, because her face blushed—mine did too, after that, but I played it off as if it hadn’t. It was cold, after all.

“Yes. I think you’re meek. It’s very cute, to be meek. I like meekness in a person. I think I try to be meek sometimes.”

“I’m not so sure you achieve that. You’re hard to read,” she said.

“Hard to read?”

“Yes, like a book. But not one of those light ones: you know, like an adventure novel? Not like that at all. You’re like a thick book. It’s a short book, but thick in words. Never a big-word, as there’s always too much to say in most books, but you’re like a book thick in words. Every word is like in bold, never a need to highlight any single word away from another.”

“I can’t quite tell if that just means I’m thick. Being “thick” is not really a good quality.”

“No, I think being “thick” is bad. You’re not “thick,” though, just thick. Thick like a thick book. Ever read Hemingway’s “Hills…?”

“Of course. In High-School, I think.”

“Like that. Thick.”

We passed by the dark, metal or stone fountain. I never bothered to touch it, so I don’t know if it was brass or one of those stone fountains that rub off onto your finger when you touch it. I’d like to assume that it was one of those brass fountains. It’s easier to catch a reflection of yourself in a fountain covered in cherubs, but when it rubs onto your finger, it’s hard to get the dust off. Not that the dust stays there for long, but it feels, though it’s only illusion, that the microscopic canyons of your thumb are embedded—filled—with the dust. You feel it like a ghost-limb then. I didn’t want a ghost limb then. I don’t want the ghost limb now.

“It’s a beautiful fountain. I’ve seen it many times,” she said.

“I can’t quite put a finger on it.”

“How do you mean?”

“I mean, I can’t quite get it. I don’t understand it.”

“I’m still not sure what it is that you're talking about.”

“There’s little cherubs all over the thing. It’s an art piece. There’s always something to it. I can’t tell what there is to this one. It bothers me. It should be easy, but I think the simpler it is, the harder it is. Yet, this one is not simple. It’s covered in little cherubs, but it’s so plain. This fountain is so plain.”

“You think much more than I think you should.”

“You think I think more than I should think? Seems a redundant thing to think.”

“Don’t be annoying,” she said. She was a little outside her meekness here.

“I’m not being annoying. But still, I’m confused by this. I like to know what things mean. What they mean is what they are to me. Not that I know anything about interpretation for others, but interpretation for me, that’s what I know. It’s how I live life. I interpret.”

“I don’t like living that way. I much prefer being held. Life holds me, and I think that’s a rather marvelous thing.”

““Rather marvelous,”” I said, mocking her. It hurt me to mock her. She dug into her scarf a little to hide her cheeks. “Sorry, it is rather marvelous. I’ve got a taste for accidentally mocking people. It’s not that I’m mocking you, just that the words in my head are interesting. You really are interesting to me.”

“I am?”

“Very. I’m much interested as to who you are, might be, will be, or were. Very interesting.”

“Fancy language for such a stoic.”

“A stoic, I am; I suppose.”

We had made our way through the park, walking through the frozen grass. It didn’t matter if we regarded the grass at all. I didn’t care much if we destroyed it under our feet—I loved hearing the frozen dew crush under me. It was relaxing, to hear the crushing grass; it’s kind of like popping bubble-wrap, but that never felt all that relaxing to me—it’s too safe. And not that the frozen grass isn’t safe, but it feels like it isn’t meant for not being crushed. I feel like the frozen grass in winter is always meant to be crushed. It sort of seems happier that way, wet and not frozen any more. Frozen water is only good for so long, but it serves different things. This frozen grass served me. I guess I wasn’t too enthralled with it once it was wet. It was happier, but I wasn’t.

“This is it. Still wanna swim?” I asked her. We stood outside the brick building that was my

brother’s Boston abode. He got a good deal on it. This girl loved how it looked, thought it was “very rustic, but modernly.”

“Of course. You promise you won’t let me drown? I’m terribly frightened of drowning.”

“Cross my heart.”

We passed through the wide, double doors made entirely of iron and shuffled through the lobby. The doorman there waved at us. I had come to know him for the brief trip. His name always escaped me, though. It was a good name, I remember, but a name I will never recall. He was always smiling, like he was utterly willing and just that happy to see us coming in. Every time I came in, he smiled; now that I came in with her, he seemed so much happier. Maybe it was just me.

“You a relative too?” the doorman asked her.

“No, I’m just a friend,” she said, putting a hand on my shoulder. The doorman smiled a bit tighter. I moved us through a little faster, uncomfortable of the setting. I didn’t want anyone else witnessing us. I wanted a little space of time for us. Absolutely no witnesses, not even myself.

The pool was on the lower level. No one was in it yet, but I suspect not many people swim much anyhow. It was all to us, and that was perfect. I didn’t want others to see me swimming. Normally I wouldn’t care, but this time, I didn’t want it.

When I had gone earlier with my brother, there was a lifeguard present. The sign said that we couldn’t go in because there wasn’t a life guard present, but I didn’t really care. The door should’ve been locked, it really should’ve—I don’t know why they didn’t lock it—but I put it up to chance. Some people would like to say that it was “for a reason” that it wasn’t locked. I like chance, chance is safer to feel.

We got in and the lights were off. There wasn’t anything on, but there was a humming light in the locker rooms. It shined on a little section of the pool. I asked her if she would “Care to swim in the dark?” and she had already stripped to her underwear. She wasn’t so meek then. She wasn’t so meek when we were alone.

“Not very meek of you,” I said.

“I’d be embarrassed, but I trust you won’t kill me or nothin.”

“I definitely won’t kill you.”

“Besides, it’s just underwear.”

She took a step into the pool and turned back, waiting for me. She waded into the shallow end and held only her neck above the water. She could only hold her neck above the water. I loved seeing her face. How I had become consumed by her. I don’t normally feel all that consumed by people. I kept wondering where the life guard must have been. Did this place only open for a few days?

I waded next to her, in my underwear as well, and I started swimming about. I encouraged her to get off her feet and try to float. She let go, but she sank. She went down immediately and held her hands out splashing. I had to shush her because I was afraid others would hear.

“That’s not how you swim,” I said. I gave her a few examples, but it took until I held her by the belly to keep her up. She was like a dog when it first learns to swim, her nose up and her breathing difficult. Her stomach was very warm and my hand liked being there. I wonder if she liked my hand there.

“If I let go, will you drown?”

“I hope not.”

“I hope not as well.”

I let go and watched as she doggy paddled around. She swam very poorly, and I kept recalling that. She swam poorly, and never before have I realized that I actually know how to swim. I suppose I forgot that I knew how to swim. I’ve always known how to swim. It just takes someone else to make you realize you know how to swim.

“I’m glad you suggested this,” she said, “I think I’m going to try and swim a lot more. Any time I get a chance, I think I’ll swim.”

“Right? It’s nice. There’s just something about it. What you said earlier—that there’s no real point—I think that’s true.”

“How do you mean?”

“I mean, you never really need to swim. Well, I mean, you need to swim if your life calls for it. Wouldn’t want to drown. But choosing to swim, swimming for fun; swimming because you can—there’s just something there.”

“Well I’m glad someone was here to teach me.”

“I’m glad I could teach you.”

We swam for some time. I don’t remember much that happened, though. I just remember we swam. I think I regret that life couldn’t put us there. I think I regret that. There was something about her. There will always be something about her, but that’s just coincidences, I think. Coincidences are easy to swallow. Coincidences are easy to swallow like chances are. I guess it’s by chance that this happened in coincidence. Then again, fate feels a whole lot better. Sometimes, perhaps, I’ll enjoy fate. Sometimes, only, I think. Only sometimes.