It was one of those strings of good weather days that are so rare here, absurd and surprising. The few clouds that had been grazing earlier were gone, vanished, blown away or drawn up into the deep unshifting blue of the sky. The clean high sunlight and clear air pulled out extra textures in everything: there were more leaves on the trees, more blades of grass (each one catching its identical, individual glaze of reflected sunlight), more ripples and glints on the lake’s rumpled surface, more submarine shifts below it.

I was coming around the lake, finishing the first lap of a walk. A guy was coming the other way, walking towards me, his dog moving back and forth in front of him at the end of a leash. He was in his late 20s or early 30s, of slightly below-average height, stocky and muscular, walking with the straddle-legged walk of short, muscular men, arms bowed out slightly. His nose was large but thin: a hatchet in miniature, a witch’s nose. His skin was slightly tan, and there was a day’s worth of stubble on his chin and mild acne along his jawline. His shirt had an image of the state of Ohio on it; across the image was the word “Ohio.” He was smiling and saying something to me.

“What?” I asked.

“Did you see that?”

“See what?”

He came nearer to me and stopped, pointed past my shoulder towards the sky. “D’you see it? Do you see it?”

“Where? What?”

“There was a seagull in front of it, but now – there. Do you see it. Or a hawk or something. Way up there.”

Way up, nearing the high central sky where the blue was heaviest, something small and white was moving, steadily, linearly: a cylindrical shape with a single fin on its back end.

“What is it?” I asked.

“See now you’ve seen it,” he said. “My wife and I saw one on the way here.” He looked around for a moment, as if for his wife to confirm his story.

“Yeah…” I said.

“We saw one on the way here, and I’ve seen them before. It can’t be a plane, it’s not leaving a trail behind it.”

“Yeah, I dunno…”

“What do you think it is?”

“Yeah I dunno, it’s definitely not leaving a vapor trail…”

“I’ve seen them all over.”

“Maybe a reconnaissance drone?” I said and laughed. “I dunno.”

“Looks like a little Pez dispenser shape. Yep, now you’ve seen it.”

I was still looking up into the blue sky: burdenless, unsmudged, faultless as a new chalkboard, the sun burning out all the blackness of space and all the other besmirching stars, so that all that remained was the unechoing cathedralized blue, falling up and up. I couldn’t see the flying thing anymore.

“They’re all over,” he said. He shook his head. “It can’t be a reconnaissance drone,” he said, but didn’t elaborate.

“Wow, yeah, I dunno…” I said.

“Well now you’ve seen it too,” he said, and started to walk past me.

“Okay,” I said with a laugh, and started to walk away.

“Hey what’s your name?” he asked.

“Ben,” I said.

“Ben, I’m Dan,” he said, and looked back up into the sky. “I’m glad you saw it. Now you’ve seen them too!”

“Yup,” I said, laughing again.

“The little white, Tic Tac up in the sky!”

“Yup,” I said.

“Alright,” he said. “Thanks Ben!” And he walked off with his dog.

He had just started his walk, and I was only in the middle of mine. I would have to see him again.

Dinner with Friend

We both waited for minute after paying for our meals – waited, I guess, for one or the other of us to say “Alright” or “I should head out” or “Okay let’s go,” so that we could leave.

So that we could put on our jackets and grab our umbrellas from the third, empty chair where they had been drip drying during dinner.

So I could go to the restroom to quickly wash my hands.

So that he could say goodbye to his ex-coworker who had spotted him from another table and waved.

So that I could hold the inner swinging door open for him.

So that he could then pull the heavy outer door open for me.

So we could walk out from under the tavern’s awning, shake our umbrellas, push them open, raise them above our heads – because it was still raining.

So we could stand there and briefly pretend we don’t know which way our respective cars are parked, pretend we don’t know we parked on opposite ends of the street (choosing to unremember, for this little skit, that we actually met outside the tavern on the way in, each watching the other approach from the contrary direction).

So we could stand far enough out on the street corner not to obstruct the passersby as we exchange goodbyes.

So I or he could say:

“Well it was good seeing you man,”

So that, then, he or I could say:

“Yeah definitely, let’s do this again soon. I don’t know why but I always forget you live so close,” even though both of us know neither of us would have forgotten that, but we laugh anyway at what we’ve said, at this little joke.

So we can then throw out farewells.

So that I or he could say:

“Later dude,”

So that, then, he or I could say:

“Yeah take care, talk soon!” as we struggle out of the last awkward gravity of parting, not knowing if we should hug or shake hands or wave.

So that we could settle on none of these things.

So that we could turn and walk, in opposite directions, back to our cars, underneath the old halogen streetlights, bright as poison, through the deep puddles in the crooked sidewalk and pockmarked street, soaking our good shoes that we wore, wetting the cuffs of our good jeans.

So that I could look up from underneath my umbrella’s brim, pretending to an epiphany, feigning a light heart and a free mind, but feeling, really, only relieved that nothing was resolved, and that neither one of us remarked upon the ways in which we saw the slow death of boredom and frustration overtaking the other’s face.

So that he could put his free hand in his pocket, and half-express to himself a wish that he had taken the time to mention that, for some reason, he couldn’t get this phrase out of his head: “Countries will trade birds in spring and fall,” wishing that it would have been easier to mention this, and remiss but also glad that we didn’t talk about the phrase, or aesthetics, or the architecture of a sentence, because he is tired.

So that we could go home undifferent, unaltered, unalloyed by anything outside of what we had to begin with, and be the same two cowards again tomorrow that we were tonight during dinner and after, as we walked steadily towards our cars, already forgiven by the rain’s long fingers.