Sometimes All the Time

"It’s
a shooting star,"
Jonah said.

"It’s
an airplane, I think," said Jenna.

Rabbit
was ahead, trying to pull them toward the group of students from Jonah’s
class farther up the river path. Jenna kept pressing the button on the
retractable leash, trying to reel him in, but each time she did so the
dog lurched farther away.

"Same
thing," Jonah said.

It
was cold and the river was loud. Jonah’s classmates waddled on in
their hooded sweatshirts, hands tucked into the kangaroo pockets. Only
Jenna and Jonah’s teacher had dressed warmly, in down jackets and
leather gloves and hats with earflaps. When the clouds cleared the professor
stopped the group and pointed to the sky.

"Cassiopeia,"
he said.

"I
think he’s making it up," said Jenna. "Imagine being the first
person to make it all up."

The
students had been encouraged to bring friends along. Another lingering
couple smelled of marijuana and stared at the sky and laughed like they
knew something about it. Jonah popped a Percocet in his mouth when Jenna
wasn’t looking; it wasn’t to quell any pain anymore, but just because
he had some leftover.

"Are
you coming over later?" he asked.

Jenna
let go his hand, which she’d been holding.

"You
promised not to ask," she said. "I don’t think so. I don’t think
I can."

"That
doesn’t mean anything. Of course you can."

"I
don’t think I want to."

They
heard the rush of an airplane and a few minutes later its lights blinked
overhead.

"Shooting
star," Jonah said.

They
walked under constellations that were mostly invisible because of the
clouds. Once or twice light snow fell slowly and melted on the water.
When they showed through, the stars were not even twinkling, but seemed
to hold very still in the sky. How was it so bright out, with the clouds?
Jonah kept looking up and expecting to see lampposts, but the path they
were on was unlit. Rabbit now was in the silt next to the river, nosing
frosted weeds. He put one paw into the water, and then another, and
began to drink.

"Don’t,"
said Jonah.

"Why
not?" Rabbit said, and waded farther out. Reflections of stars shimmered
in the water next to him.

"Rabbit,"
Jonah said. "Come. Please."

"No,
thank you," said the dog. "We’re playing now."

And
with that, he began to sprint along the shore, flicking up water and
sand and seaweed. Jonah chased after him, his arms outstretched. And
Jenna tried running, too, but after taking a couple steps realized she
couldn’t keep up.

She
held on to the leash, though. It must have seemed important. Probably
she could feel the nylon uncoiling from inside the handle. Probably
she’d instinctively braced herself for a jolt. When Rabbit was fifteen
yards ahead, at the end of the leash’s give, he gave a quick yelp
and fell backward into the water. Concentric circles emanated from around
his body, growing larger until they broke against the beach. Sheepish,
he stood up, looking confused.

"Go
get him," Jenna said. "He’s freezing up."

Jonah
stepped into the river, watching his legs disappear, feeling them turn
numb. It was not an unpleasant sensation, or even unfamiliar. He picked
up his dog, and Rabbit was shivering, but hot. "That was stupid,"
Jonah said. "Why would you do that?"

"Is
he okay?" Jenna asked. On the shore, she put one foot in the water,
just the sole of her hiking boot at first, laying it flat on the surface,
as if testing the temperature, though she could not feel through the
rubber. She was slow to enter the river, which, once she was in above
her ankles, was quite cold. But the coldness, though constricting, was
also welcome – refreshing in its way. There was a drop-off in front
of her; Jenna stepped ahead and sunk in deeper than she’d intended,
feeling the freeze creep up her thighs. She found higher ground again
and her jeans, Jonah saw, were dark all the way to her hips.

"I’m
really mad you let this happen," she said.

For
every step she took closer to Jonah and Rabbit, a foot more of nylon
gathered back in the leash’s handle in her palm. Soon – though it
seemed like a long time – her hand was on the nape of Rabbit’s neck.
She peeled off her gloves.

Jonah
took her hand again, though he wasn’t sure if it was because he wanted
to. Not with interlocking fingers, either, but in the way that’s more
of a reverse handshake. "We’re probably going to get really sick,"
Jenna said.

Later
they will sit in her minivan, wrapped in towels taken from her duffel
bags in back, which have been there for the last month. Rabbit will
stand in the space between the captain seats, his belly thawed and dripping,
smelling like summer. ("Rabbit looks heavy," Jenna will say. "Yeah,
it’s called feeding him," will be Jonah’s reply.) Both their armrests
will be down. They will look out the windshield, and then, after a few
moments, inexplicably, Jonah will let go her hand and go into his apartment.
He will open his astronomy journal, which will be due the following
Monday, and whose pages he has to fill to make up for missed entries,
and he will write self-consciously, afraid that one day again Jenna
will know exactly what shapes he conjures from the sky of his surroundings.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5