April 29, 2009
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We’re laughing in the mall. It’s a Saturday afternoon, but I feel like it’s just the two of us. “I don’t generally share ice cream with somebody I just met,” I say to him. He just smiles and accepts the bite I offer him. His smile is as sweet as the Dippin’ Dots in the bottom of my cup.

I had just met this boy no more than two hours ago, and it feels like I’ve known him for half my life. I never want to leave him or this place, but my plane ticket home is in three days. Does he even know that I don’t live here?

Three days away seems so far as we continue to laugh and eat the chocolate rapidly melting on our spoon. He tugs at my hair, and we make childish eye contact before he immediately shifts his attention to his shoes. Our group of friends brings us back to reality when they decide they want to leave the mall for my best friend’s house instead. He drives me there in his green Volvo.


“PADIDDLE!” my sister yells too loudly from the front of the small car.

“PADIDDLE!” Dru repeats in the same obnoxious volume from the driver’s seat.

“Daniel! You lost! Take off your shirt!” my sister continues.

“What are you talking about?!” he exclaims, not catching on. My sister and I had learned this game when we moved up north and had passed it on to Dru last time we saw her. Daniel is conveniently still in the dark. “Those are the rules of Padiddle! You lost! Take off your shirt!”

I can only laugh as I watch Daniel sigh audibly and, knowing he is fighting a losing battle, peel off his grey polo in the hot car. “There? Are you happy?” He sets his shirt down between us, and his crystal eyes lock on mine. He smiles in his way, but our moment is interrupted by my sister’s frantic shouts.

“PADIDDLE! PADIDDLE!” she screams again, pounding the roof with her palm. “TAKE OFF YOUR PANTS!!”

“No!” Daniel says exasperatedly, denying her request.

“Those are the rules! Take something off!” Daniel pulls off his shoe and throws it at the back of her seat as his reply.

We finally arrive at Broadway Bagels, and he puts his shirt back on in the crowded parking lot.


I had arrived at the Greenville-Spartanburg airport earlier, and I could have sworn I saw his house in the pool of miniature houses as I stared out of the thick plexiglass. Maybe I even saw the green Volvo he always drives when he was coming to pick me up from the airport. He drove us straight to Dru’s house where everyone was awaiting our arrival. We decided to take a break together, which was where we are now.

Standing outside Dru’s house, Daniel turns his back to the breeze and lights up a menthol. He’s been smoking since seventh grade. I do not approve.

“I missed you,” I say to the ground.

“I know,” he says back, blowing his smoke into the wind.

“You really should stop doing that,” I say, watching the smoke curl and disappear in the glow of the streetlight.

“I know,” he repeats.

“I really missed you.”

At this statement, Daniel stamps out the butt of his cigarette and draws his arms around me. The familiar smell of his cologne intermingling with the menthol fills my senses, and even though I hate the cigarettes, I feel more content than I have in months. I don’t want to leave this place.

We stand in a blend of smells and desires for another eternity that ends too soon before we go back inside.


We spend too much time at airports, I think while standing in front of security for Terminal 2. Daniel is standing next to me looking like a true Southerner with his black hat, black gloves, and black coat on inside of O’Hare. Black seems to be the color of the day.

There’s really no room for words. He arrived a week ago in the same terminal. I parked in the same grey parking lot to come pick him up as I had dropped him off. The parking lot seems much more ominous this time around.

I struggle with what to say. “Well, thanks for coming. I had a fun time,” I say awkwardly.

“Yeah. Me too,” he replies just to fill the space. I look at the long security line and wish he could just stand with me for the extra fifteen minutes instead of standing with strangers.

He fills the silence by wrapping me into a familiar hug. I bury my face into his unnecessary jacket and try and forget that I will not have this opportunity again until the summer. I kiss his scruffy cheek and pull myself away. Even calculus isn’t this hard. It is time for him to go.

Daniel walks away into the line. I’ve done this before. I’ve left him many times. Why is it so much harder for him to leave this time? I can’t even watch him go through security, so I leave the sterile airport for the grey parking lot. Everything seems slower as I drive on I-90E to get home.

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