Dense pine trees gave way to country fields, barns and tractors, reminding me of childhood trips taken through Palouse country. Soon enough grassland would turn a goldenrod and beige, waving along the scenic highway. A two hour drive had seemed endless and filled with childlike anticipation, knowing that once headlights appeared through thick green curtains two figures would emerge and stand waiting on the back porch. Grampa Adolph would flick the switch to start his fountain and colored lights would gently play along the path just past the old garage. The familiar smell of potatoes, carrots and cabbage from a simmering pot of boiled dinner reminded us that thick slices of bread would be stacked neatly on a large plate next to bowls of steaming broth. Grama Elva grabbed the simple metal tin as helpers cleared and washed dishes. Her frail arthritic fingers clicked the lid until the sweet and unforgettable aroma of maple and pastry wafted through her tiny Swedish kitchen.
My summer job at the track was a daily grind of waking early for Bingo and then returning at night for the races. This allowed me to save spending money for the upcoming school year as both my sister and I knew that anything other than studies during the academic calendar was strictly frowned upon. Mom and dad were able to pay for University expenses and therefore our only responsibility was to study!
I checked my speed and looked in the rear view mirror hoping that no lights were flashing. My mind had drifted back to thoughts of the previous school year and the sting of a lesson learned that still rang loudly in my head. An unspoken crush that evolved from friendship had turned serious and was just as quickly determined to be too risky. I slowly made my way into the University town, down a large hill and to a light. I lit another cigarette and focused on the upcoming few days that I would spend with my sister reaffirming my vow to never fall again! She urged me to have fun and make the most of being young and single.
I followed directions that had been scribbled on an old envelope and searched for a large sign on the left side of the street. It was a sharp turn, steak house, gas station opposite and then I would find the college apartments. I grabbed my things and stopped at number 3 where I was greeted by my sister and her friend, a young Saudi man. I dropped my bag and slumped onto the vinyl couch removing shoes and jacket. Music blared; smoke filled the room and cans of beer stacked until they toppled to the floor.
Knocking on the metal door was ignored until the face of a slender man peered through the window, tapping lightly while waving hands back and forth. Loud voices called for him to enter and he shyly stepped into the doorway. My sister walked to the kitchen urging him to follow. Cooking pots and pans clattered and lay toppled near the cupboard until she found one that would do nicely for his rice.
There was something unique and different about his demeanor, calm, polite and yet intuitive in nature. Long slender fingers pushed through black wavy hair and a quick flash of brown eyes made one last query until he disappeared from view.