November 5. My birthday.
As I waited in Hixson Lounge for Jeff, Marty sat down and handed me a cupcake. “Happy Birthday.”
“Thanks. Can’t believe you remembered.”
“How could I forget? You’re my twin. Hey, I bought you a present.” He handed me a brown paper bag.
“Nice wrapping.” Inside was a white candle.
“Reminded me of you. Innocent. Pure. There aren’t many like you around.” I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. The sweetness of his skin surprised me. I never had sweet kisses in high school.
Later that afternoon, Jeff and I stood on the edge of Lake Michigan looking out over the water. At that moment, the angle of the sun made the water look like there were stripes of gold running through it.
“Magical,” Jeff said.
True. Everything about Jeff was magical to me. The brown leather jacket. The magnetic eyes. The lips. The smile. That fact that he liked me.
I ran down the beach. When I turned back, Jeff was looking at me, gold streaks in his hair, gold streaks in the water. He picked up a stone and tossed it into the water. It skipped three times. Each time the water moved in shimmering waves. It was an extraordinary, unexpected perfect moment.
By the time I walked back to Jeff, the earth had moved ever so slightly and the gold disappeared. We sat on a blanket on the sand.
“Ready for a snack?” Jeff pulled out a box of Ritz crackers and a can of Cheese-In-A-Can from his backpack. He squirted cheese onto a cracker and put it in my mouth. I ate it whole, like how I eat Oreos.
While we ate I told him how confusing Biology class was. “The professor put this long string of numbers and letters on the board related to the chemical composition of sugar. C. H. O. I memorized it but I have no clue what it meant.”
“It’s easy,” he said. “Think of a marshmallow over the fire. The atoms inside, some H, some O, some C get hotter and hotter and start wiggling around.”
“That has nothing to do with the chemical composition of sugar.”
“It has everything to do with that. Marshmallows are pure sugar. The atoms wiggle and the outside of the marshmallow starts talking. ‘Damn it’s getting hot,’ it says. ‘I’m melting.’”
Jeff talked on about how the sliminess was based on the relationship of the H to the C adding a bit of water and a bit of fire. I laughed until I couldn’t breathe.
We walked back to campus in silence, Jeff’s arm around me. At my dorm he kissed me. My skin tingled. My stomach flipped. My palms got sweaty. I wanted the kiss to go on forever.
The next Wednesday night at our anti-war meeting we surprised Marty with a cake and twenty candles. After Marty made a wish he winked at me. “You get the first piece,” he said.
U.S. Soldier Body Count: 18,217