“Wow, you’re one bad-ass lit professor, aren’t you?” teased Liza. They were in the garden again. It was a sweltering July evening. Bruce wore a sleeveless shirt and cargo shorts. Liza was finally able to get a good look at some of the tattoos that she had only glimpsed before.
From a distance, he looked more like a biker than a professor. A closer inspection revealed that all of his tattoos referenced literature in some way. Her favorite was a simple quote that ran up his left forearm, “Not all those who wander are lost.” It was from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Liza traced the letters with her finger.
“I was a military brat growing up. Unlike most of us, I enjoyed moving around. I don’t know…I always managed to make friends wherever we went, but then I never minded leaving them behind when my dad was re-stationed. I liked my friends but I really liked exploring new cities.”
Bruce had a far away look as stared off into the sky. Liza was quiet. She reflected on her own childhood. It had been good but ordinary. Mom stayed home and Dad was a plumber. She spent her whole childhood in the brick row house that she now owned. She thought about Casey. Laura was not a very good mom in Liza’s opinion, but a lot of friends and family had stepped in to help her raise Casey. Maybe those times would yield some happy childhood memories when she grew up. If she grew up.
“Do you still travel at lot?” asked Liza.
“I haven’t in quite a while, but I’d like to again,” said Bruce. Liza nodded. She had always wanted to travel, but never seemed to have the time and the money at the same time.
“I took a math class online a couple of terms ago. The professor lived in upstate New York. Apparently, when you teach online, you can be located anywhere. You could travel and teach,” said Liza. Why in the hell was she telling him this? Though the though didn’t sit well with her, she knew that she would miss him if he left.
“I’d like to be able to do that someday,” said Bruce. He got quiet again for a few minutes before joking, “You trying to get rid of me?”
“No, not at all. I like hanging out.”
A wide grin erupted on Bruce’s face. “Me too. Very much.” He slid his hand across the bench toward where hers rested and opened it. She laced her fingers through his. He rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb. His tongue was roving around his cheek. Liza had come to realize that this was his thinking face. “Do you…would you like to…Do you want to hang out sometime? Besides this, I mean. Maybe grab a cup of coffee?” he asked.
“I’d like that.” Liza’s face felt hot. She turned her head and pretended to study the bush next to the bench. It had purple flowers with bright yellow streaks.
That night, before he got out of the car at Adams Square, he leaned over and brushed his lips across her forehead. She jumped and turned her head toward his. He kissed her cheekbone and then ran his lips down to hers. He pressed his lips against hers for a minute before wordlessly hopping out of the car. She watched him trudge down the street and wondered if this was the beginning of something really good or really bad. It felt like it could go either way.