Hank’s sister is how I think of Julie. It’s not Julie’s fault. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen people change too much from sixteen to sixty-five. The way people come into my life, that’s how they go through it, and how they leave it. When Hank’s sister and my brother said they were getting married, I figured it was a good time to start thinking of her as Julie. I didn’t expect to think of her as my brother’s wife anytime soon.
She asked me to drive her to the train station, and it was a slow day at the track, so I said yeah. She packed a bag upstairs. I waited downstairs drinking a beer and going over my brother’s books. He was reading Melville and Dostoevsky. One of those guys I knew was Russian. I hoped the other one was British or an English guy. He had some books on time, some books on religion, some books on highly effective habits.
Hank’s sister met me at the bottom of the stairs, with her bag. She looked good. I asked her if she had any books in her bag. She said no, just some magazines. I finished my beer.
At the station I parked the car and accompanied her to the ticket desk. She handed me her bag while she rooted around in it for her purse. Inside the bag I smelled something like cinnamon, saw the gloss of the magazine and the ragged stitching on a very old, very small stuffed bear.
It was late afternoon and the sun was about ready to go down. It took its time, and the air was hot, with a cool wind stirring the trash on the tracks and the cinnamon on Julie.
“Are you coming to the wedding?” she asked.
I poked my finger through a hole in my pocket. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“I didn’t know if you had work,” she said. “Ross really wants you there.”
“I know,” I said. “I’ll be there.” I widened the hole.
Behind us the empty parking lot loomed like a pasted down square of black. My pickup sat on it like a periwinkle spitstain. We stared down the tracks.
“I’m really happy,” she said.
“That’s good,” I said. We stared down the tracks together. There weren’t too many more waiting with us. The sun seemed to hold its breath.
It wouldn’t have calmed her to see me jiggle my ankle, or hold my breath, or sigh, nor would I have helped her to say something I didn’t think. At the moment, I didn’t have a thought on me. The one beer and the one sun were doing their balancing act in making the horizon seem distant and big, and the tracks pointing that way lay like a long burnt out matchstick on the Earth.
“It’s a pretty day,” she said.
“Yeah I think it is.” It was a good, strong lie. And I felt better.