I worked in an air-conditioned factory that summer. But even industrial fans couldn’t keep up with the heat. All through June and July, the city was sick with it.
In the winter, I moved to Minneapolis, to the upstairs of a house, one belonging to an old friend in the southern outskirts of the city.
Suburbs or not, though, I was enjoying my new life. Minneapolis had a similar feel to my old city, Seattle. Though I think what made me feel most at home was meeting someone new.
On our first date we went for pancakes and I remember thinking how lucky I was. This person across me has dark hair and a crooked smile and a tender heart. Could I have met her online?
She wore colorful clothes and she would answer if I called. She would smell good. She was someone you see at a bar or church or wherever and imagine what it’d be like kissing her.
She just had those kind of lips.
I think as well it was her way of speaking that endeared me. And how she listened. She was good, I could deeply sense, from the very beginning.
I could sense as well we would not last. I would never do better than her but she and I were not right for each other. Still, I wanted us to be right for each other. So I pushed past that.
As time moved along – the winter, spring, summer – it became harder to bring up the fact that we should find others. For her, someone who would go out more, be more attentive, be more everything. For me, I don’t know. I don’t know what my problem is, really.
Anyway, that summer, I lived in my friend’s house while Hannah lived with her artists in the kind of place other artists know well, I’m sure. Bed bugs in every bed. Birds in the walls. Personality blooming from every room. Hannah and the artists lived in the upper unit while a group of pot dealers lived in the lower one. They were the ones who really did wear parkas and had one girl who maybe lived there but probably just slept on the couch, and they played Bob Marley music too
I know this because I went through their place, as I had forgotten my phone so she could let me up, the night we broke up the first time. Then, because I missed Hannah a great deal, I begged for us to get back together. And so we did.
Not long after we reunited I went over to her place. Hannah lived in the hottest part of that ramshackle commune, way up in the upstairs of their upstairs. Usually she’d come over to my place, but for some reason I was at hers. Perhaps it was cooling off because her room was like a sauna for those really hot weeks.
The night we found it, I remember, we had only her little fan. We watched that stop-motion movie, the one with the little horse and Indian and cowboy. Only the bedsheet covering us, I felt her against me. She was as perfect as I could hope, yet I did not want anything to happen.
I knew the more we did things, the harder it would be. I was thinking that, I remember, as she began to move against me. Then, she stopped. She turned and said as she felt, “What is this?”
Half out of it, I asked, ”What’s what?”
”This,” she said, touching it, “right here.”
I touched where she touched and felt it too. Its oddness got me to jump out of bed. There in the mirror seeing it, feeling it, I felt not so much fear but puzzlement. My life was not my life, but more like a dream. That’s a cliche. But I could not hope to describe it differently.
Back in bed, Hannah came to me through a fog. It was nothing, I told her. It showed up so suddenly it couldn’t be anything serious. Still, I promised to see a doctor so we could go to bed.
The next day I set up an appointment, which terrified me. When no one was looking at work I found myself feeling it, obsessing over every variation my life would now take. I’d done nothing. I would die putting my family in debt. My life would be a minus.
The night before the appointment, Hannah came over. She was up in my bed, on the floor then (she was almost too understanding) while I was in the bathroom, examining it in the mirror.
Squeezing at it, puss came out. All the heat and sweating, it was just a pimple, I was mostly sure. With a wonderful newness, I went up to bed.
The lights were out so it was not like other times when I would come upon her lying there wearing nothing, her pert bottom raised up.
Instead, we just talked. Neither of us were doctors, so we didn’t know. But what happened alleviated most our fears. Hannah fell asleep first. She always slept so soundly.
In the morning she gave the directions to the clinic. I had not explored the city too much so she pointed out the places I should go, that we could go. It was the kind of thing I had always dreamed of happening, a good-looking, smart woman showing me new things. Someone who was not my sister or my mother or father or friend from grade school was caring about me. I felt like a man as we went up to the doctor’s office. And even more so in the waiting room as Hannah helped me fill out the paperwork.
When they called my name I got up and can see her, even now. She looks up from her magazine and gives me a it’s gunna be ok smile. I can’t forget it.
The appointment was not a big deal. The doctor knew it was a pimple. I truly felt like an idiot. But that dissolved as I came out to Hannah waiting for me.
We walked outside into a light rain. It continued as I drove us to a Malaysian restaurant nearby. There we ate alone, as if they’d cleared the place just for us.
Not long after, Hannah and I broke up. Since, I haven’t talked to her. I don’t imagine I ever will.
But now in the times when I go on worthless dates with heartless people, I think of Hannah, of how good she was.
This is sentimental, and it won’t change anything, but I’d like to say these things because they are true.
She dressed so colorfully, and she was patient. She worked as an artist, instead of just talking about being one. She had such a good smile.
She had many good qualities. Though, more than anything, she supported me in what I wanted to do, even if I should have already done it.
All of this is too personal, I understand. But I can’t help but remember her fondly, even if I don’t deserve to.
I can’t be the only one.