a fine line one walks with strangers.


he was sitting on the bottom steps of the staircase, the one that led up to the back deck. in the yard, there was a small net, and two guys were playing badminton. in between bites of potato salad, he pretended to be keeping score, as the two strangers had asked him to. a girl sat down next to him. she had a hot dog and a hamburger on her paper plate. in her other hand, she had a corona. surprisingly, she immediately introduced herself. "i'm cat," she said. he said his name, and they shook hands.

it was now around eight o'clock, and the temperature was cooling down. he asked who she knew at the party. "i live next door," she said. she pointed to the decaying blue house next door. "oh," he said. "how about you?" "a friend of a friend who lives here," he said. she smiled her nice smile, showing her small teeth. he picked at the potato salad. "so," he said, "what do you do?" it was a fine line he was walking, and he knew it. that fine line one walks with strangers, trying not to be boring, trying not to seem too inquisitive, too nosy. "i work in sales," she said, "really boring stuff. what about you?" he told her what he did, being as vague as possible. sometimes, he wasn't even sure of it.

they kept talking about things, and all the while, he was hyper-aware of how one topic fluidly flowed into the next. work, and then school, and then friends, and then books, and then music, and then weekends. and then interspersed somewhere in there was something about the westboro crazies. he tried to joke about how he was going to make a counter-protest sign, one that read, "god hates the new facebook." the badminton ball dropped next to her corona. she threw it back.

they didn't speak for a long time. he had run out of things to say, and it seemed as though she did, too. he then remembered that he had an ounce in his cargo pocket. he undid the velcro and pulled out a small, crumpled-up plastic bag. "wanna get high?" he asked. the words came out of his mouth so casually, that he had to stop and reconsider. was he being awesome or an asshole? he was so bored, it didn't matter. it was saturday evening. tomorrow, he would probably do nothing, and then monday, it was back to work. doing anything would be an adventure. "sure," she said.

they decided to go down to the basement. he put it in his head that he wouldn't get too high because it was always a bad idea to get too high in an unfamiliar environment. there was an old clock radio in the corner. "what should we listen to?" he asked. "it doesn't matter," she said, "k.e.x.p." he put the station on, moving . the dj was playing old-time folk and bluegrass music. he offered her the better seat, the ripped-up leather recliner, and he sat down on a dusty lawn chair. "i'm not the best at rolling these," he said. she said that she would give it a try.

it ended up being a lumpy little joint. they passed it back and forth, not talking. she laid back in the recliner. "this is nice," she said. he didn't answer her. he was staring out the small window, the one that only had a view of long blades of grass. "what are you thinking about?" she asked. "the movie up," he said. "what about it?" "i don't know," he said. "it's just kind of hilarious when you think about it." "what, those talking dogs?" she asked. "no," he said, "like the first twenty minutes when their whole life passes them by, and they never accomplish their big dream in life." "that's not funny!" she said. "that was so depressing." "yeah," he said, "but think of all the kids that are watching that movie. they can dream all they want, and nothing will ever come true." "i don't think that was the point," she said.

then what was it? he wanted to say, but didn't.

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