“Plan B”

It’s not like I don’t know what Trent and I are in for. We’re both still single, both back in Philly, both drunk on multiple two-for-ones. My heels are inappropriately high for Kelly’s Taproom, and I wobble as we walk out the back door. Trent grabs my arm to steady me; I lean into him more than necessary. Purposeful seduction. Trent’s weakness is sex and my weakness is Trent, and this seems to have gotten us, intermittently, from college to where we are today—in the parking lot of Kelly’s, surrounded by the smoke of over-cooked potatoes and the orangey glow of Lancaster Avenue. We lean on the passenger door of Trent’s Ford Escape.

Come over here, Trent says.

Our kissing is familiar, even though it’s been five years and two failed engagements (mine). He tastes faintly of cucumber and cherry, the girly drink I’d teased him about ordering—What would the Villanova rugby team think? I’d asked, but Trent had just lifted up his glass, extended a pinky while he gulped.

We break. I feel the scruff burn from Trent’s eleven-o’clock shadow rise on my upper lip.

We could have…Trent mumbles. He’s walking away from me to the driver’s side of the Escape, his hands buffalo-stomping in his pockets.

I’m not sure what I’m seeing. I wipe my tongue across my front teeth, park it there like I used to do in college during Calculus exams.

Trent finds his keys, beeps his car locks. They click open.

We could have what?

Trent’s head hangs limp. Clumps of hair fall over his face, the velvety mass of a closing theatre curtain. Nothing, he says.

Trent. My sure thing. That kiss was grand. I’d felt the way he’d pushed into me; I can still feel the ghost of it on my thigh. There’s a ginny haze that’s derailing my common sense to leave this whole question mark alone, and, at the same time, clarity. Occam’s razor. The simplest answer.

Who is she?

Trent’s face lifts up; he stares at me the same way he did that night in Falvey Library when, while studying for mid-terms, the fog of differential equations had lifted off of me and—oh so abruptly—I could completely understand the Power Rule, deftly apply the Chain Rule; I was the female equivalent of Sir Isaac Newton—a bemused Trent had just stared while I correctly approximated the distance between points a and b, determined the limit of all of the sequences in our problem set as they approached infinity, as they approached x, as they approached null value.

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About Michele Johnson

Michele Finn Johnson’s stories and essays have appeared in Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, DIAGRAM, The Adroit Journal, SmokeLong Quarterly, Split Lip Magazine, and elsewhere. More at michelefinnjohnson.com; @m_finn_johnson.