The black girders rose triumphantly, defiant in their lack of detail. The clean lines of an abstract industrial swagger. Jennie sat comfortably in the stainless steel chair. I sat across gazing, the lights bouncing off her long black hair at odd angles. We were having Mexican at the old Metreon foodcourt.
“How’s the guacamole?”
“A bit limey,” she said. “I think we should cut it with some cumin.”
Jennie had always been taste sensitive, at least she had been in high school.
“But Jennie,” I said, smiling, nervous, overthinking my words. “Cumin is hard to come by these days.”
She looked into my eyes and took a no-look dip with her chip.
“You ain’t kiddin’”
And that was the beginning of our affair. We had seen each other, again, as they say, at our 25th High School reunion. It was almost like we were meant to see each other that night. Our lonely, desperate lives singling each other out and letting us in on the secret of love. After a few awkward moments at the makeshift bar past and future melted into each other. We talked about career plans. We made fun of fat women and bald men. We talked about the confused emotions, the absurd anxieties, and the sheer oldness of those times.
Like they never really happened, she said.
We expressed shock that we had not seen each other since graduation given that neither of us had ever left San Francisco. We counted the times when we could have run into each other, the stations where our shuttle routes crossed paths, our favorite restaurants and grocery stores. We made plans to keep in touch, exchanged codes, and took note of each other’s supple parts.
To be honest, I had my eyes on Jennie long before our 25th reunion. A few years back I had heard from a friend that she was working for the Federal Mint, a government bureaucrat with an office overlooking the Castro. When I realized that she was working in San Francisco all the old feelings came rushing back. I had always been in love with Jennie, ever since junior prom when she drunkenly told me she wanted to be a hair stylist in Tokyo. But here was a real opportunity, I thought. When I drove by the Mint I could smell the chemicals in her conditioner. I even fantasized about frolicking in vast piles of money, dollar bills stained with sex, naked in the presence of the global economic system. But I had time to bide. Plans were in order. Love shouldn’t be hurried.
I had made the first move and invited Jennie to the Metreon, our old stomping ground. In the heady days of patriotic resolve it had been rebuilt girder for girder. It was only recently that the top two floors had been converted into office space—fuzzy cardboard cubicles. But the foodcourt was still there along with Julian’s Bar and a gallery dedicated to the history of the Metreon, from its construction by debt-ridden Japanese entrepreneurs in the mid-1990s through its temporary closure after the Terror of July and, as the plaque said, “through the current era of peace and beyond.” Walking slowly through the dim lit hall it made, or should I say, allowed Jennie and I to realize that we had been a witness to history. Real history, to things turning against themselves, to traitors, conspirators, and thieves. As we approached the grainy black and white photos of those convicted tears shown in Jennie’s eyes. I turned toward her and gently held her arm. Her cheeks turned glisteny and red and she asked where I had been that day, if I had been injured, and if I knew anybody involved in the planning of the attacks. I put my arm around her and nodded. “Yes,” I whispered, “I did. But not right now, Jennie. We’ll talk about serious things after Mexican.”