When Your Mind's Made Up

March 5, 2008
By Robin Yang, Greenville, NC

The snow had softened into rain overnight and then frozen again, piling up in dirty gray slush at street corners and sidewalk edges. People followed their breaths over sidewalks, wringing their hands in the doorways of buildings. In the wan morning light, some kid two floors down across the street leaned out her window and smoked leisurely, a scarf and tank top her only defense against the wind. When Meghan stood and looked out the window, she thought she was crazy.

“Look here,” she said to Kyle. “How cold is it outside?” She buttoned up her white coat.

“God—Meghan,” said Kyle. He went to look, anyway. “What is it?”

“She’s not even shivering. How cold is it?”

“I don’t know,” said Kyle. “It doesn’t matter.”

Meghan turned away. “Of course it doesn’t,” she muttered.

“Well,” started Kyle, and then she decided that this had been argued too much. Everything had been argued too much. He followed Meghan’s movements with his eyes. Meghan sat heavily on the couch and ran a hand over her unmade-up face. Her fingers twitched.

Kyle asked, still standing next to the window, “What?”

Meghan said, “I need to fix my hair.”

“Your hair is fine.”

“I know. But I need to fix it anyway. I look...dated.”

“You look fresh,” corrected Kyle.

“I look like Katie Couric.”

“Ah,” said Kyle. “Well, you’ll have time soon.”

“I’m washed out as a blond,” said Meghan.

“You’re not. You’re beautiful.”

Meghan sighed. She stood again and picked up her bag from where she dropped it on the side table. “I think I’ll go schedule a session.”

“Okay.” Kyle took a look out the window. The girl was gone. He wondered if the embers from the cigarette had burned too low, scalding her fingers. He wondered if she could feel that against the cold. “Did you remember to get your toothbrush?”

“Don’t be like that. I can buy a new one.”

Kyle opened his mouth to protest. He closed it, turned back to his bedroom for a second, looked at Meghan again, and said, “Well, for my benefit, do you have your toothbrush?” Meghan glared, but opened a side pocket and rummaged anyway.

“Right here,” she said, and held it up. It had red rubber grips and pink bristles that were only half-pink at this stage of use. “Okay?”

Kyle swallowed. “Yeah.”

“Okay.” Meghan tried to soften her voice. “I have to get some stuff done. I’ll see you.”

“Meghan—um,” said Kyle. Meghan waited. “Well.” She waited a little longer, her feet tense, ready to move and go.

Kyle tightened his mouth and waved. Meghan waved back. “Bye.”

“Bye.” Kyle looked out the window as the door slammed. He heard the elevator ding and Meghan shuffle on. He waited a little longer, staring down at the road, until he remembered that his apartment building didn’t exit on this street. His fingers twitched. He brought them up to the sill and pressed down, hard. Nothing yielded. He cupped her left elbow in his right hand and touched his chin, pushing in dry skin. He wished he’d reminded Meghan about lotion or something. There might be sun later. She might have stayed longer.

He suddenly let his hands drop, snapping his left arm until his elbow popped accordingly. He raised window sash, bent down, and leaned out the window. The slush was melting, he could see clearly. The sidewalk underneath just reflected the monochromatic sky above. He breathed in, and the cold air hurt the back of his throat.

A head of blond threaded determinately through the thin crowd, set above white clothed shoulders. Kyle squinted. A white clothed arm rose to hail a taxi. “Meghan!” he yelled. “Hey, Meghan!”

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