Angie holds a beer can to her ear. Listening closely, she shakes it. “I want to drink this leftover beer, but I don’t know… someone may have put their cigarette out in it or something.”
“Oh well,” she says. With something like caution, she slowly brings the beer to her mouth and takes a drink. She spits the beer out onto the yard.
After spitting a couple more times, she looks up, brushes her hair out of her face, and begins to laugh.
“Just kidding,” she says and drinks from the can.
I think, “I want to title everything I do ‘The Bridges of Madison County.’” I begin laughing too. We are laughing for different reasons.
As I listen to the rain trickle on a broken lawn chair from my porch, I think, ”I want to hug that three legged lawn chair. I will cry. The lawn chair will laugh. Angie will look at me. The lawn chair will laugh. I will never see her again.” Unable to remember her teenage dreams, Angie closes her notebook she started writing in after we did not talk for 5 minutes. She looks up at me. “What are you thinking about?” she asks.
“The gray sky and the sound of the rain and hugging that three legged chair while I cry and destroying our relationship. What’s in your brain?”
“I was thinking I want to be serious and be taken seriously.”
“I was being serious.”
“I am sure.”
“Seems intense. I think we will need a ‘safeword’ for our sincere conversations,” I say.
“’Safeword’?” Angie sets her pen across her notebook. She opens her bag and peers in.
“A code word to unambiguously communicate our emotional state to each other when approaching, or crossing an emotional, or moral boundary. To stop the conversation outright or maybe say we’ll continue, but at a reduced level of intensity.”
Angie smiles. She pulls out two cigarettes and a lighter from her bag. One at a time, she lights them. I laugh one breath of a laugh. She hands one of the cigarettes to me and returns the lighter to her bag.
“A safeword to have a sincere conversation. Too funny.”
“It is funny, but I said it ‘on the square’ or whatever.”
“No… It’s perfect. What should ours be?”
She grabs her pen. She leans over her notebook and begins writing across the cover. It reads, “▲NUMBSKULL▲.”