Blind Kiss

Blind Kiss by Renee Carlino

For my best friend, Angie

“Cutting people out of your life is easy, keeping them in is hard.”

—Walter Dean Myers

1. Present Day


In my dreams, I danced. It had been a decade since I had laced my pointe shoes and glided across a stage, let alone a studio, yet in my dreams I felt strong. Flexible. In control of my body. I felt like myself.

In reality, I was like every other suburban housewife in Fort Collins, Colorado, though lately I’d been allowing myself to indulge in old dreams by going down to the studio where I used to dance as a girl. Now it’s a Subway restaurant. What a travesty. I often sat on the bench just outside of its double doors and wished that I could afford to pay the lease on the space to reopen the studio: it had always been my goal, but life changes. We get sidetracked. Some of us get lost in the details of domestic life, and before we can blink again, we’re thirty-four and our dreams are unattainable.

That particular morning, I turned on the TV to see what the weather would be like. It was spring and the ice had melted, but it was going to be a gloomy day. Instead of the news, the movie Groundhog Day filled the screen. How apropos, I thought, though I didn’t necessarily want my own cycle to break. My fourteen-year-old son, my only child, was going off to MIT in the fall. How I raised a genius kid, I’ll never know, but it seemed too soon for him to be leaving. To be leaving me, alone, in a life that seemed unrecognizable, in a marriage that was slowly, and quietly, dying.

I paced around the house, making sure everything was perfect, as always, until Milo came down for breakfast.

“Do you want blueberry waffles or pancakes or eggs or—”

“Don’t worry about it, Mom,” Milo said with his back to me as he made himself an espresso. “I don’t eat breakfast anymore.”

“Since when do you not eat breakfast? It’s the most important meal of the day. It’s why you’re so smart.”

“That’s not why I’m smart, Mom. It’s because I was born this way. It’s because of Dad and Grandpa and you.”

“And Gavin and Ling and Kiki and Grandma,” I added, reminding him of my two best friends from college, my sister, and my mother—the small village that had helped me raise Milo.

“What are you going to do today?” he asked.

“The weather looks bad but . . . maybe I’ll go down and check out the studio again. Try to talk to the owner of the strip mall if he’s in his office.”

“You mean sit outside the Subway and daydream?” Milo said teasingly.

“Don’t be a smartass. A girl can dream.”

“I think it’s good for you, Mom. You need to get dressed, get out, and breathe in some fresh air.”

His words stung. Had I really been moping around that much? When had I stopped getting dressed? I looked down at my pajamas and ran a hand through my hair. I imagined what I looked like to my son.

I approached him for a hug, and he swooped me up and squeezed me hard. “I love you,” I said.

“You were the best mom.”

“I’m still your mom. You should let me hold you like a baby on the couch, while I still can.”

“I haven’t let you do that since I was, like, five,” he said, laughing.

“You were seven. But I guess you’re three inches taller than me, so maybe you should hold me like a baby?”

He laughed again. He was so handsome, just like his dad. I thought to myself how much the world was going to love him, and how I was going to lose him.

“That would be really weird, Mom.”

“I know. I’m just gonna go shower and head out. Text me later, okay?”

“You got it.” He threw back the espresso, picked up his backpack, and headed for the front door.

As I walked up to my room, I heard the door close and felt a deafening silence descend upon the house, as it did every morning when Milo left, only to lift once again when he returned in the afternoons. But I could see its invisible shadow trailing across the horizon of my future: a silence that would stay forever.

I SAT AND watched the college kids from Colorado State passing through the doors of Subway with their five-dollar footlongs. It made me nostalgic for my own college days, though I couldn’t say why—I could never eat like that when I was a student. I guess I just envied them their spark. Their buoyancy. Their untouched futures.

I heard the familiar purr of a car engine and turned to see Gavin pulling into the parking space directly in front of me. Our eyes connected through the windshield as he shook his head and laughed. I smiled and gave him a little wave.

Gavin was always handsome and tall, with a full head of messy, dark-brown hair, and a heavy brow that made his green eyes seem even more penetrating and brilliant. He had full lips that naturally turned up at the corners, even when he wasn’t happy. His hands were rough, thick, and scarred from his work as an auto mechanic, though I knew he was still deft with a guitar. Even though I’d told him his sideburns were lame and out of style, he wore them long anyway, and he never shaved his face with a real razor, only the electric kind that leaves a permanent five-o’clock shadow. He also wore bracelets, which drove me a little crazy. I told him they made him seem feminine, but the truth was there was nothing feminine about him. At all.

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