all along

He walked out ahead, tolerating us, tolerating her, tolerating me enjoying her, all a little drunk as we moved along the wet pavement in the night under dim streetlamps, parked cars glistening, dark brick and concrete and steel rising up on either side into nothing we cared to acknowledge.

He reached the door first, of course, the back door—we rarely went through the front. She leaned on me, laughing at something silly I’d said, the two of us still some baker’s dozen paces behind, her arm around my waist as we stepped up on the sidewalk, grasping me, and I half-knowingly enjoyed letting her enjoy that excuse for touch. So I pulled my arm out from between us and put it around her shoulders and gently helped her press in closer, still laughing, saying something or other in reply.

He opened the heavy metal door and looked back at us in a single gesture, expressionlessness saying everything, the light spilling out on him, turning him to some strange grotesque, spilling onto the uneven sidewalk, onto the closest car, and in he stepped, up and in without a word, still holding the door.

We scurried on reflex, more for show than expediency, as it was barely more than an exaggerated walk, even though we must’ve known by dumb instinct and observation that he couldn’t see but I don’t think we thought about it either way. I caught the door with my right hand just as he was letting go, left arm still thoroughly involved with her.

Into the light we came and she said—I’ll never forget—pressing her head into the side of my chest, right there under my arm, “it just fits,” and I could feel her look up at me just a bit, just a bit of a bit. Oh boy, I thought, knowing that meant everything, everything and nothing at all. Up and in we went too, up those one-and-a-half steps into the light and noise, unhooking ourselves as if by mutual command, my thoughts frozen in hers and I knew.

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