“Wow, you’re one bad-ass lit professor, aren’t you?” teased Liza. It was early July and it was sweltering outside. Bruce was wearing a sleeveless shirt and cargo shorts. She was finally able to get a good look at some of the tattoos that she had glimpsed before. It was funny; 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 or another. 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, and unlike a lot of us, I enjoyed moving around. I don’t know. I always managed to make friends wherever we went, but I never minded leaving them behind when my dad was re-stationed. I liked my friends but I really liked exploring new cities.” Bruce was smiling slightly as he 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 had 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. Well, if she grew up.
“So. Do you travel at lot?” asked Liza.
“No, 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 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 the hell was she telling him this? She knew she would miss him if he left. This thought didn’t sit well with her, but she knew it was true.
“I’d like to be able to do that someday,” said Bruce. He got quiet and thoughtful again before joking, “You trying to get rid of me?”
“No, not at all. I like hanging out with you.”
A wide smile erupted on Bruce’s face. “I like it too. Very much.” He slid his hand across the bench toward where hers was resting 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 felt like she was blushing. 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 march off down the street and couldn’t help but wonder if this was the beginning of something really good or really bad. It could go either way.