roberta is a librarian, thirty five and drying up
she drives an ugly old buick to and from work every day and
feels exceedingly guilty when she runs over already dead roadkill
so one night she's driving home and swerves to avoid a fresh
opossum, and runs a pedestrian off the road-- both are unharmed,
as is the buick,
but she is overcome by guilt and also familiarity because
this is carl, her blind date to homecoming from 1989!
whom she hasn't seen since graduation the following spring.
(after that he went to some weird technical community college thing--
she hadn't heard from him since then.
no one really had. but he's back!)
and he says,
hey roberta, let me take you to a movie or something. it's been such a
long time and you were always so good to me and here we are! look
at us here!--

they were sitting in the buick which was parked but running on
the side of the road
as they both collected their nerves-- look at us here! who'd have thought,
you know? really. who'd have thought?
let's make the most of this crazy twist of fate-- eh, roberta?

and so she gave in.
the movie was her idea because it seemed like the logical place to go
though she wasn't completely sure--
roberta wasn't ever much for the dating thing, she preferred her books
and her cats.
but carl didn't have any cash on him so she ended up paying for him,
and the movie wasn't so good
and she noticed halfway through the previews that he reeked like a bowling alley--
strangers and cigarettes.
he needed a ride home, though, so she gave him that-- pulled down his unfamiliar
street slowly because that was just the way
roberta was.
but she stopped, a dead on stop with the squealing brakes and all, when
they saw the cluster of flashing lights
the huge red trucks and the
stream of foamy water surging into the night.
and carl said-- oh, holy shit, roberta-- oh
holy holy shit
-- because it was his little tan
one bedroom one bath
tan little square house with the mismatched drapes and all
flaming there before them like
a beacon in the night.
and when it was all over-- when the trucks were pulling away into
the darkness and the neighbors were turning back to their porches
and the night was still again-- it was just
roberta, a librarian, thirty-five and drying up
with her arm around the back of tall old carl, leading him
to her green buick
having just offered an open door and
an open palm
to a stranger-- yet her one past love, if that is what
you would call it-- leading him home.
just not out of the guilt that drove her
right into the whole mess
to begin with.

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