the book of embraces, chapter Liza Jane

In another city, a thousand miles away, in a tiny mountain town he was handed a résumé from across the counter. He was to make a copy of the résumé for the boy who handed it and that’s all.

He glanced at it and noticed the boy had the same unusual degree he had. The boy went to one of a group of schools that shared campuses. He’d worked at that faraway school for a summer many years before.

He had a wonderful love fling with a girl that summer who worked there too. Once they had sex all day. He had never had sex all day before. It happened because he was dying then and when you are dying sex becomes imperative. Still, it was something. The radio and the fan were on all afternoon. He remembered many of the songs that had played. There were many to remember. He remembered more of the songs than the sex. He was listening to the music the whole time. All day.

He asked the boy who needed résumé copies, “What brought you here?” Meaning his little town.

“I met Jim Levine in China. Do you know him?”

“Sure.” Everyone knows everyone in small mountain towns.

“He told me I should come check it out so here I am.”

“Are you from California?” he asked because the college on the résumé was there.

“No, I’m from Seattle.”

He said, “I worked at Pitzer for a summer.”

The boy said, “Really. My girlfriend worked there summers. What year did you work there?”

“I don’t remember,” he suggested.

“She worked there from ’88–’90.”

He thought long and hard about it for three seconds and asked, “What was her name?”

“Elizabeth,” the boy told him.

“I saw her that summer,” he said, meaning they had more sex than he had known what to do with.

The boy looked confused. This was something that must be forced to make sense. The boy asked, “What’s your name?”

“Ashley,” he replied.

“She told me about you,” said the boy.

“She told me about you,” he confirmed the lack of deception on anyone’s part.

They looked at each other for a moment. They were very similar looking. He was taller than the boy. That was all that was different.

Since there had been no deception on anyone’s part he stuck his hand across the counter. They shook hands and said hi.

He made the boy his copies and felt tremendously unsteady with the universe for several days.

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