Andrew Roe

Precision 

Hello there, I say, and you’re stunned, so stunned you don’t say any­thing back, you just stare, stare open-mouthed and silent like I’m a ghost. And okay, all right: that’s what I am. People even­tu­al­ly stop call­ing when calls are not returned. The reflec­tion in the mir­ror starts to look like some­one else—or no one at all.

The after­noon had been stum­bling right along. Running errands. Coffee. Other mut­ed dis­trac­tions. I leaned into the city wind and con­tin­ued walk­ing. Then you: in line at the same cor­ner store, get­ting change for a park­ing meter. Me: enter­ing through the door in a prac­ticed rush, head trained down­ward by habit, remem­ber­ing milk, toi­let paper, eggs, then look­ing up, see­ing you, and stop­ping, equal­ly stunned, imme­di­ate­ly think­ing back, as our eyes met and then part­ed, to one of our last con­ver­sa­tions, the time you said, You don’t even know your­self. How can you pos­si­bly know me?

I could have missed you, turned right instead of left, cho­sen a dif­fer­ent store at a dif­fer­ent time, slept in, had lunch late instead of ear­ly, any­thing. But every­thing went the way it was sup­posed to. Every deci­sion of the day led me to this moment, led me to you. Don’t these things usu­al­ly hap­pen for a rea­son?

Now you’re putting your change in your purse, the coins find­ing solace in there. I don’t think there’s any­one else in the store. We don’t know what to do with our hands.

I say: It’s been a while. A real­ly long while. I can’t remem­ber when.

You ask: How long? How long do you think, exact­ly?

True, you always did like pre­ci­sion, the eupho­ria of the finite. Living in the same city I thought it would’ve hap­pened soon­er. But no. Not until now. And you are the same but dif­fer­ent. You look more ful­ly revealed. You look more … you. I, on the oth­er hand, look less and less like me, becom­ing some­one else in the slow, semi-trag­ic fade of the years.

A long time, I say. Ten, twelve years?

Longer, you say. Longer.

~

Andrew Roe lives in Oceanside, California. His fic­tion has appeared in Tin House, One Story, The Sun, Glimmer Train, The Cincinnati Review and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. He keeps a spo­radic blog at andrewroe.blogspot.com.