She was pissed at him the rest of the day. They were drinking cranberry-lime hard seltzer which had them both on edge. He finally said, “Do you remember that time at the pool party? The Vandenbosches or whoever?”
“Like, ten years ago?”
“Yeah,” he said. “When we were first going out.”
Someone walked by outside and Targaryen, their yellow lab, went nuts. They paused their show and waited for the barking to stop. Eventually the dog turned in circles and settled into his bed.
“I guess?” she said.
“I was out there with the kids,” he said. “Marco Polo, like.”
“And you said, that night in bed, you said that was when you knew. Watching me. Being goofy. Cannonballs or whatever. You know, that you loved me. Being like that.”
They stared at the television. A rich white couple touring three million-dollar homes in the San Diego suburbs. Open concepts all around.
“I guess what I mean is, how was that different from today? I was just playing around.”
“You could get hurt,” she said. “Like, really hurt. You’re not young anymore.”
“It was a fucking skateboard.” He tried to keep the ice out of his voice, failed. They both noticed. He sighed, a kind of apology.
She didn’t say anything.
“I was showing the kid how to balance.”
“The kid didn’t need your help. He doesn’t need you to be the cool old-guy neighbor.”
“What’s wrong with being the cool neighbor? The kid likes me.”
“Of course he does. But there’s a reason he was wearing a helmet, right?”
Nothing else to say, really. The couple on TV picked the house farther from work and over their budget, but it had that huge backyard and the main-floor laundry, which seemed a decent enough hedge against regret, a lifetime of grass stains and rinse cycles stretching into the distance.
Amorak Huey is author of four books of poems including Dad Jokes from Late in the Patriarchy (Sundress Publications, 2021). He teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Twitter: @amorak