I pounced on him mercilessly the next day, “Terry, where is that book about dreams that you showed me—the one with the pictures of constellations in the front?”
He looked at me blankly, holding the bar code scanner in his hand and a dog-eared paperback copy of A Child Called “It” on the other,“Uh?”
I sighed exasperatedly and reached for the computer to search in the database, “Dreams, soul, destiny….something like that. Remember?”
His eyes cleared, “Oh! The one about the occult?”
“The occult?” I was immediately turned off, which was a first because I’d always been indiscriminate about my reading material. “Hm…Never mind.” I continued searching the catalog and wondered out loud, if there was another similar book on the same subject.
“Why? What do you need it for?”
I was about plunge into a vivid recount of a bizarre dream I’d had last night when I became acutely aware of him standing next to my stool, looking down at my screen—ready to help me find that book, no doubt. He leaned closer towards the computer to type when his arm brushed mine. That did it. I felt myself blushing. Oh, I was mortified–and furious at myself too. “It’s OK. I don’t need it anymore,” I said and abruptly ended the conversation by going away.
– – –
Terry found me sitting by the vending machines in the library’s food court a while later. I was wolfing down some mess of leftover lasagna during my short break from tutoring, and he had me cornered because I wasn’t going anywhere without finishing my dinner first—cold or messy my lasagna may have been, but it was delicious, and I was famished.
“How you doing?”
“Same as always,” I replied taking a violent bite out of a piece of my garlic bread. I was determined to be nice, but without knowing how to do it without embarrassing myself. I figured that keeping to short, terse, phrases was the best way to go.
Terry said nothing and returned his attention to the vending machine. He bought a coke, a cold sandwich, and Doritos. He took a seat in front of me and offered me some deliciousness-covered nacho chips.
I looked down at the wholesome contents of the red bag, and was suddenly struck with a though that made me smile.
“No thank you,” I said, but somehow it felt just a bit less stiff. I suppose it was because I was tickled by the role reversal that was taking place. I wondered if Terry had caught on too. Daring a peek at his face, I saw that he was also smiling with me at the thought of that day in fifth grade. We both laughed a little.
“Why did you always want to trade your lunch with me—way back then?” He asked.
I returned my attention to my lasagna,“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, come on. Tanya. Those were the best turkey sandwiches I’ve ever eaten outside of Bob’s Sandwiches. I never knew why you did it. You never told me.”
“You never seemed to need an explanation. You always seemed eager to trade with me.”
“Yeah, but the first time I expected to drop dead or something—or end up with diarrhea.”
“Oh come on!”
“I’m serious! No one else bothered to approach me back then.”
“Well…” I looked at him, this time without feeling embarrassed. He sat there smiling at me like before, always interested in what I had to say, always kind. Here was a chance—a small God-sent chance—to fix what had gone wrong between me and my only friend in the world. I wondered if it was a late answer to a prayer I made, or if it was Zuri’s prayers on my behalf at work.
No matter. To me it was nothing short of a miracle, and you don’t let miracles pass you by just like that. So, as I was done with my lasagna and I had several more minutes left, I began. “Ok, I’ll tell you. But don’t get angry—you promise?”
“Hmm….” He made a pretense of thinking, “Alright”
“Alright then.” I put my elbows on the table and clasped my hands at the level of my chin, “It began the day I discovered—or thought I discovered—evidence that Mara had been abducted by aliens…”
part 16.1 of If You Only Knew