For the second time since we've lived here, someone knocked on our door today, having run out of gas on our drive. It was two young girls in thin coats, freckled, one wearing more eyeliner than the other, both of them faintly red-headed, and I said I would drive them to the gas station. When we got up to their truck, there were two boys inside, bundled up, looking the other way. The face of the boy in the back was obscured by the fog of his breath on the window pane. I thought I saw a patchy beard, but couldn't be certain. They wore work coats, their heads pulled back in the hoods like turtles retreated into shells. The boy in the passenger seat stared the other way, east, toward our mailbox, to where the day lillies would grow in summer.
The truck was at an angle on the drive. We decided that I could get around the truck; the boys didn't want to get out of the truck to push it anyway. The girls grabbed their big bright pink wallets, and I drove them to the gas station.
"Are you sure those guys are going to be okay?" I asked them. "If you want I can call my husband and ask him to have them come inside..."
"No, they'll be okay, they're bundled up."
I said this honestly because I was afraid that the boys with faces obscured by breath fog and hoods were going to rob the house while we were out getting gas. I wanted them to know it wasn't empty. I tried to say it casually, off-handed. I didn't want them to know I was mistrusting of anyone.
We got back with the gas. The boys were still in the truck. The house was fine. This is not that story. Or any story really, just what happened after I heard a knock on the door.
The girls were going to culinary school. One of the boys lived here, the other didn't. They were all from the same small town. "Up towards Dayton?" They spoke like young girls do, everything a question. Everything a wonder.
"I grew up in a small town, too."
"Yeah, just cornfields." Said with the spite of someone who only recently left a small town for the big city. "It's my first time living in the city."
"How do you like the city?"
"It's fine. The traffic is too much sometimes?"
We talked about cars. It was her dad's truck, the girl with more eyeliner; the gas gauge was broken. I told them I'd bought my car from my mother. The marginally intimate conversation of newly acquainted strangers stuck in the same car. I asked how old they were. "19?" Oh, running out of gas at nineteen, with boys in your truck and a culinary career in your future.
Suddenly I felt weird for asking. "I didn't really need to know how old you were. I guess I'm just making conversation."
They were going to become bakers. Pastries and stuff. They didn't have AAA. "We called the police and they said they couldn't help us either." I said it was a colder winter than I could remember in a long time. "What a day to run out of gas."
The emo looking woman in the gas station booth had to run their payment twice; the girl with less eyeliner stood holding the red plastic canister, hands shoved into her sleeves. I had to wait for a woman buying Marlboro Lights with a credit card to finish her transaction before we could figure out why the gas wouldn't pump.
We rode back to the house, the interior of the car smelling faintly of gasoline. The sound of it sloshing against the red plastic at her feet.
I had some 80s Todd Rundgren playing when they knocked on the door. Blue-eyed soul ballads with saxophone. I introduced them to myself, and then to the cat. I was wearing pajama bottoms and a big sweater, my hair was uncombed, gray bits sticking up more than the rest. I put on a proper coat to go outside. I can barely remember nineteen, thin coats, work that starts at noon.
The girl with less eyeliner sat in the backseat. "Do you not know many people here either?"
"No, we do, but since my husband and I both work from home, we..."
"Don't get out much?"
"Yes, I guess you could say that. During weekdays at least." I thought of the roaring fire we had last night. I thought of how we pretended to be Jacques and Julia while cooking spaghetti. How I like to sit with my toes shoved under his legs on the couch.
Our car choked as it started. Their truck was nearly blocking us in; a service truck had to stop traffic so that I could reverse into the oncoming lane.
The boy in the passenger seat, looking the other way out the window. Refusing to get out and push the car.
"They're not chivalrous kinds of guys."
The girl with more eyeliner pulled a five and two ones from her big bright pink wallet and tried to hand it to me. I backed away on the ice. I told them I'd do it for the karma, not to worry. I told them to be careful backing out. My voice sounded genuinely concerned.
They were going to be late to work. They didn't know many people here yet. They liked our house.
I can barely remember nineteen.
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