The Small Honda

I slide out of the brisk evening air and into the passenger seat of his small old Honda, a car far too small for his football player frame. He sticks the key into the ignition, the engine coming to life. A layer of ice and snow occupies the windshield, he waits a few minutes for it to defrost. Faint clouds float from our mouths with each breath, remaining only for a few moments before fading away into the cold air of the car.

He pulls puts the car into reverse and pulls out of the lot, windshield still slightly foggy. They say that a reckless driver is safer than a scared driver, a sentiment I didn’t believe until the first time he drove me somewhere. He turns onto the main road, only half of one hand gracing the freezing surface of steering wheel. Yet, I still feel perfectly safe.

A CD plays in the background–EDM music that we both enjoy despite knowing that it is less artful than other genres. We have bits and pieces of a conversation, keeping it casual, but it feels more meaningful than typical small talk. We don’t force conversations; silence between us doesn’t have undertones of awkwardness like it does with other people I interact with. I catch glimpses of the outline of his face and his features highlighted by streetlamps and stoplights, but otherwise keep my gaze fixed on the passing scenery, though I’ve seen it hundreds of times. Part of me wonders if he’s stealing glances at me too, if he wonders what my face looks like in the fleeting sources of dim light.

We’re about halfway home when he pushes the eject button on the CD player, the radio immediately blaring a Top 100 song in response. He pulls the CD out of the slot and flips down the visor, revealing a holder housing ten or so plain CDs that he made himself. He slides the CD into an empty slot, pulls out a different one with no hesitation and slips it into the player. “No One” by Alicia Keys fills the small Honda.

We sing along, like we always do when music plays. He isn’t the best singer and he knows it, but never shies away from the high notes. I always turn and grin at him when he tries and fails to match the artist’s pitch and he always grins back and says, “Sorry, I’m done,” but he never stops and I’m glad he doesn’t.

We sing with Alicia Keys to the best of our abilities. It’s fun, like it always is–casual, no pressure. I don’t turn to him when his voice cracks on the high notes though, I keep my eyes on the houses that glide by, bullied into shyness by the thought that there could be significance behind his music choice.

“Beautiful Soul” by Jesse McCartney comes on next and we sing. I have to remind myself that this is normal, this is what we do. I smile at the familiarity, at the song that my friends and I loved back in middle school, but also at us in his small Honda singing as we cruise through the night.

He pulls into my driveway. I thank him for the ride. He smiles and says he’ll see me tomorrow. I watch as the pair of headlights veer around the corner and out of sight. I walk into my house, humming to myself because the songs are stuck in my head.

 

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“So it’s a date”

The café door greets me with a cheerful ding! as I push it open. She’s the first thing I notice when I walk in. I pause for a moment, unprepared for her presence. She’s sitting by herself at a table next to the window, the sun spilling onto the textbook resting in her lap.

I pull myself out of distraction and find a place in line. There are a handful of people in front of me and only one person working behind the counter. I steal another look at her while I wait.

Wavy strands of auburn hair escape her messy bun. Messy, but still perfect. She reaches out sweater-sleeve covered hand to grab her mug and takes a sip, glasses sliding down the bridge of her nose as she does so. Her index finger repositions her glasses in one fluid movement so that they sit directly in front of her brown eyes. They’re like gingerbread–initially spicy and demanding your attention, but then unraveling into layers of secrets and unsaid feelings that maybe one day, I’ll be lucky enough to figure out.

“Next!” the barista calls out.

How long was I staring at her?

Did anyone notice?

I order a cappuccino, hand the barista my money, and give him my name for the order.

“It’ll be ready in a few minutes,” the barista says with a smile.

In the meantime, I take a seat at a table near hers, hoping she might notice me. I glance at her, but she’s engrossed in her reading. A sigh escapes my mouth as I pull out my biology notebook, intending to study for the upcoming final.

I mindlessly flip through pages of notes covering photosynthesis and mitosis. It takes me a bit to realize that my mind is wandering, wandering back to the first day of the semester when her and I were assigned as lab partners.

Right from the start, I could tell she was different from all the other girls. She emanated kindness, but a certain aura of mystery followed her around. For the first few days, she was quiet; we both were. But it wasn’t long before I got to know her bubbly laugh of hers.

“Hey.”

My thoughts are interrupted by a voice. Her voice. I turn in my chair to face her.

“Hey, fancy seeing you here,” I remark, acting surprised.

“Back atcha,” she giggles. “I was just studying for finals.”

“Me too.”

“Oh yeah? What class?” she asks.

“Biology,” I answer.

“Oh man, I heard that final was hell,” she laughs again. It’s so cute.

“We should study together sometime,” she says suddenly. I’m completely caught off guard.

“Ye-ye-yeah,” I stutter, trying to mask my excitement.

“I actually have to get home now, but want to meet here tomorrow?” she asks.

“Sounds good.”

“So it’s a date,” she confirms. She looks directly at me. My heart flutters. I hold her gaze as her eyelashes bat over her gingerbread eyes. All too quickly, she flashes a smile and walks away. She glances back at me from over her shoulder before pushing the door open and stepping outside.

“So it’s a date.”

Her words play over and over in my mind.

“I have a cappuccino for Katie!” the barista calls.

My drink is ready.