Their professor had let them leave once they finished their midterm. Bruce was done in less than an hour. Liza, worrying that he would walk home, had raced to finish. She found him waiting patiently outside the classroom, looking at houses on his laptop. Her throat tightened. “Moving?” she asked.
“Far?” she asked, trying to sound casual.
“No.” He grinned up at her as he closed the laptop and slid it into his bag. “Would you miss me?”
They walked hand in hand down to the courtyard. Liza had really come to appreciate unexpected free time; even more so now that she was always at the hospital. That reminded her. She called Casey’s room when they got outside. Her niece hadn’t improved, but she’d sounded happy, chattering on about how she finally beat Nurse Bill at rummy. She’d just finished brushing her teeth and was getting ready for bed. Liza whispered that she loved her and told her goodnight. When she hung up the phone, Bruce was making a face that Liza couldn’t interpret, but her excitement overrode her curiosity. She practically dove into the car. Liza didn’t know what to do with the found hours. She could get some long overdue chores done around the house, or just relax with a beer and work on her new drawing. Maybe should would ask Bruce if he wanted to hang out.
“You never asked me what I thought of your drawing,” commented Bruce as he shifted around some of the junk in her footwell to make room for his feet.
Well, she definitely didn’t want to do this. Until now, she’d been successfully ignoring the fact that he hadn’t mentioned her drawing all evening. She tried to sound like she didn’t care. “I know.”
“Why not?” Liza fiddled with the radio and shrugged. “Is it because I’m a professor?” he pressed.
No, it’s because the picture is both for you and of you, and I apparently care way too much what you think. “Yes.”
“I’m a literature professor.”
“I know…still.” It sounded lame, even to her. They fell silent as Liza maneuvered her car through the cramped streets around campus. Bruce was staring out the window, looking lost in thought. It was Liza’s favorite kind of night: no humidity, temperature in the mid-seventies, full moon. She rolled down her window and tried to push aside a thought that was slowly beginning to torment her. She looked over at Bruce a few times. He was still staring out the window. “Well?!”
Bruce jumped and looked at her wide-eyed. “Well, what?”
Liza wondered if he was messing with her. “What did you think about my drawing?”
“Do you want to know?”
Liza began to feel sick. He wasn’t saying anything because he didn’t like her drawing and was trying to spare her feelings. “No.” Bruce continued to stare at her. He looked as if he expected her to say something else, or as if he might say something himself. Then the light turned green and Liza returned her attention to the street. She turned up the radio and fished a cigarette from her purse. She dug around blindly for a minute and couldn’t find a lighter or matches. Bruce was watching her out of the corner of his eye like he had on the first night of class. She fought the urge to flick the unlit cigarette at his head, figuring that it might come off as just a tiny bit childish. At the next red light, he rummaged around by his feet and came up with a blue lighter. He wordlessly lit her cigarette and then placed the lighter in an empty cup holder.
They drove together like that until they reached Adams Square. Liza sucked down two cigarettes to keep herself from coming apart. Bruce, either unaware or uncaring, stared out the window the entire time. When she left him off at the usual spot, Bruce leaned over and kissed her on the cheek before getting out. She drove off as soon as he stepped away from the car.