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Almost Fiction: Q-tips

By Sam Jones

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Throwing my gym clothes, shoes, weight belt, shave cream, razor, shampoo, protein bar and Q-tips into my old ratty leather gym bag, it was the Q-Tips that somehow transported me back to ancient times when I dated a beautiful blonde, long-legged coed. I could see her clearly. Her brown eyes were filled with excitement, her skin was without flaw and her figure was classic. I thought she was wonderful.

We met in a summer semester philosophy class. It was a boring prerequisite for my major but she took it as an elective because she thought philosophy would be fun.

One day the professor neglected to show. Within the first 15 minutes half the students had left and were already sunning themselves on the lawn. I stuck around thinking this would be a good time to start a conversation. “Hi, my name is Sam. Looks like we get a day off. Lucky us. The prof has forgotten us.”

“Lucky us?” She said incredulously.

“Yeah, we get a little time to ourselves.” I became somewhat defensive.

“Funny. It seems a college education is something we are willing to pay for but we don’t expect anything. The less the better. When the professor doesn’t show up we are happy. Instead of going out on the lawn for a suntan we ought to demand a refund. Weird, huh?”

Wow. I never thought of it like that. I just wanted to get A’s on tests, promptly forget everything, get on the dean’s list, go to Harvard, graduate law school, become an attorney, then a judge, accept a placement on the Supreme Court and to hell with learning anything along the way. She actually wanted to learn stuff.

After an awkward beginning, in the empty classroom, for the rest of the hour the blonde and I sat and talked about demanding that the professor reimburse a portion of our tuition, then we had coffee, then a simple dinner in my apartment, talked all night and between the end of summer and the beginning of the fall semester she moved into my apartment and we became inseparable.

She didn’t scoff at my plans of becoming a Supreme Court Justice and I rejoiced in her notions of traveling and seeing the world.

With the fall semester I dove into classes. She didn’t register, rather, she ensconced herself in the University Library. An original, a unique thinker with no boundaries, she was not intimidated by time or the tyranny of the calendar, however, she was in tune with nature.

Speaking on any number of subjects, more than once, in bed, I agreed with everything she said, agreed completely, hell I would have agreed to anything. It was a good thing she wasn’t a spy and asked me to give up the secret plans to blow up the world. I would have told her anything, given her anything.

So every evening we talked about my studies, her longing for travel, made love and held each other tightly into the night. It was the best time of my life.

It started philosophically. “An academic life is wonderful but it must not be at the expense of experiencing life on the outside. We are young; now is the time to go out and see the world.” She was very convincing.

Little by little our conversations about travel became more specific. We decided that the best way to go down the road was by motorcycle. A used motorcycle was inexpensive, got good mileage and you sat very close to the one you loved. And going to the northeast to see the fall leaves in Maine was a recurring theme that became very intense.

Coming home from the store I proudly displayed a small travel box of Q-tips. Normally I would have bought the giant economy size, you get more for your money but today I bought the tiny transportable size to prove to her my seriousness concerning our adventure tour. She took it as a positive omen. To convince myself the whole thing was a good idea, I carried them in my left coat pocket for days but I knew a motorcycle trip to see the leaves turn was an abstract, hypothetical undertaking. In her reality she started making concrete plans.

On a Wednesday afternoon she said, “I’ve found a good deal on a used motorcycle. Pooling our money we can afford it. The seller wants to show it to us today; now.”

“What’s the hurry?”

“He’s going in the Army and wants to sell it right away. It’s low mileage and won’t last long. We won’t find another deal as good as this one.”

“No, what’s the hurry in leaving?”

“The almanac and the weather reports say the leaves will be turning in just a few weeks. It’s time to go.”
“I can’t go now. I’m in the middle of a semester.” I rattled off a list of my excuses.

“We’ve talked about this and you agreed. You said you wanted to go.” She seemed startled and hurt.
“Yes… I know… I want to go… but I can’t. Mid-terms are in two weeks.”

She said, “I thought our talks were truthful but they were not. You say you want to go but you can’t. That’s not true. You can do anything you want to do. People do what they want to do.”

“No, I want to go… I do… but I can’t.”

“You’re not in jail. You can choose to do or not to do anything. This lawyer, judge thing is too important, more important than travel with me. You don’t want to go, enough.”

“You mean you’d go without me?”

She didn’t speak, braided her long blond hair, put stuff in her backpack, slipped on good walking shoes and left.

The sharp corner of the crushed travel box of Q-tips made a tiny cut in my left palm but I didn’t feel it.

She was right of course. People do what they want to do. The rest are just excuses.

Timing in life is everything. With such a woman there would be no second chance; you only get one and my chance had come and gone.

I didn’t become a lawyer or a judge or a Supreme Court Justice, however, I did buy a motorcycle and I have seen the leaves change in Maine.

Her hair would now probably be grey but in my mind it will always be blonde. I look intently at any woman with long hair carrying a backpack or wearing good walking shoes and wonder if she is still out there seeing the world. I hope she is. I miss her most in the fall.

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