It was 1967. The jukebox was playing “Light My Fire” by a new band called The Doors. The young woman had a nine a.m. class and she was never late for class. She saw the young man she was dating sprawled in the booth he always sat in against the far wall of the snack bar. From there he could watch both entrances. The clock above the booth on the white wall showed twenty five minutes to nine.
The young woman slid into the booth. She put her notebook, books and shoulder purse down beside her on the seat, a new bright yellow pencil down on the brown table top. The pencil had a sharp point. The young woman didn’t look at the young man, but she felt his gaze across the table top.
“I never come down here this early,” she said.
“Then it’s always so crowded at lunch time.”
“Yes, I know.”
She looked at the his face, and then she looked away.
“You’re still mad at me,” she said.
“I’m not mad at you.”
“Oh, yes you are.”
“No not really.”
A few more students came in. The young woman sat looking down at the bright yellow pencil on the brown table top.
She said, “I can guess what you’re thinking.”
“I’m not thinking anything.”
“I can just imagine what you thought last night.”
“Let’s not talk about it.”
She ducked her head, throwing the hair away from her eyes. She unzipped the shoulder purse, took out matches and a pack of cigarettes. There were only two cigarettes in the pack. She lit one cigarette and did not offer the boy the last cigarette and he did not ask for one.
“Are you still my girlfriend?”
She exhaled smoke, being careful not to look at him. “Yes.”
“Are you sure?”
“Sure I’m sure.”
“Then what was last night all about?”
“I guess I wasn’t ready.”
“Are you kidding?”
“No, I’m not kidding.”
She crushed out the cigarette in the black plastic ashtray. The cigarette had tasted stale. She picked up the bright yellow pencil and concentrated on it as she twirled it very slowly back and forth between both hands.
He asked, “You think I have a disease?”
“I don’t think that.”
“You’re taking the pill, right?”
She looked at him. “Why didn’t you come with me?”
“I can’t get pregnant.”
She looked back at the pencil. The pencil was the nice place to look.
“So,” he said. “Last night would have been safe.”
“Didn’t I just say so?” She looked at him and said, “Can’t we do other things?”
“Other things. You know like go for walks. Or to the movies or to concerts or the coffee house or even to chapel?”
“Chapel?” He laughed. “Why in the world would you want to go to chapel?”
“We always end up making out in your room. I mean like that’s the only thing we ever do.”
“I thought you liked it?”
“I love it. You know how much I love it.”
The young man stopped sprawling. He leaned forward putting his forearms on the table top. She looked into his eyes. As he spoke his voice was low the way it had been last night as they pressed tightly together in the dark on the narrow bed in his dormitory room. She’d already had three maybe four cans of beer. Her blouse was unbuttoned and she wasn’t wearing a bra. Cherry vanilla incense burned and a Rolling Stones album played while flickering light came through the open window making shadows dance about the room. She finally excused herself to go pee. She really did have to pee. She was a freshman but he was a senior and only seniors lived alone and had private bathrooms. She came out of the bathroom with her blouse buttoned up and tucked back down into her jeans. She didn’t even go over to kiss him goodbye. She left him sitting on his bed in the dancing shadows in his dormitory room.
“We’ll go more places,” he said, now as they sat in the booth in the snack bar. “But you’re supposed to be my girl.”
“Light My Fire” had ended. The clock on the white wall above the booth showed eight minutes to nine. The young woman found her hands in his and the bright yellow pencil on the brown table top. She squeezed the young man’s hands tight. He squeezed back. The jukebox remained silent.
She said, “I can’t.”
He said, “You mean you won’t.”
She said, “I can’t.”
He said, “You mean you won’t”
“No,” she said. “I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t. You shouldn’t even want me to if I can’t.”
“I have to go.” She began gathering her things.
Someone dropped a coin in the jukebox.
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