By Peter Obourn

M.FINAL.webarilee had never had a date—a date where a boy asks you out and you do date stuff, like dinner and a movie. She’d been to her prom, but she had been fixed up for that. And she’d been fixed up other times by her girlfriends for parties and things they called double dates. She’d been kissed. But she knew what was supposed to happen hadn’t happened yet.

And now she was in college—Sturgis College, a real college in Ohio, where most colleges were, with old brick buildings around green quadrangles filled with walkways organized like a page in a geometry book, with squares intersected by triangles, with students walking on the triangles and squares, half of them men—in other words, potential dates.

So far at Sturgis, Marilee had gone to two mixers at the Commons, but nothing had come of it. Then someone named Oscar DeVilbis called, and one minute later Marilee had a date.

Her roommate Clarisse said, “What do you mean, this is your first date? You told me about your prom, and what about that boy named Cameron? Was that his first or last name? I forget.”

“Honest, Clarisse, this is my first real date. Those other things were not dates. They were arranged. The boys were coerced. This boy wants to go out with me. He picked me. He initiated it. It was his idea.”

“Okay, relax,” said Clarisse. “Tell me about him.”

“I don’t know anything,” said Marilee. “He just called and I said yes.”

“Great,” said Clarisse, as she pulled the freshman facebook from under her pillow. “Here he is,” she said.

They sat together on Clarisse’s bed. Marilee noticed that Clarisse had made notes next to some of the guys’ pictures. “You should try this in your chemistry book,” said Marilee.

“Very funny,” said Clarisse. He was from Toledo, also in Ohio, and attended St. Mark’s Academy, whatever that was. The small picture, almost a postage stamp, was just his face—dark, and a smile so big, his eyes were crinkled. He looked happy. “He could be cute,” she said.

“His lips are too thin,” said Marilee, but you couldn’t really tell that in the tiny smiling photo. Besides, she didn’t much care about what Oscar looked like. She’d be getting the first date out of the way. That was what mattered. She would move on from there.

Marilee had looked at all the boys on campus as possibilities, rating them for looks. She was attracted to a couple of them, athletes probably. She’d followed them to the library or the gym, wherever they were going. Now, that seemed so childish. That was fantasy. This was real. She wondered about touching—about kissing even, maybe. The boy named Cameron had kissed her, on the lips, and she had kissed back, and she remembered it, even though it was three years ago, and it wasn’t even that good. It was actually the last thing they did together.

She had told Oscar she would meet him at the Commons, not her dorm, because her side of the room was a mess and would be until parents’ weekend.

As she was about to set out, Clarisse said, “Wait. Stop. Your glasses.” Marilee shook her head. Clarisse lifted Marilee’s black-rimmed glasses off the desk and handed them to her. “You bump into things, Marilee. Trust me, wear the glasses.” Then Clarisse made Marilee wipe her lipstick off and apply one of Clarisse’s shades of pink that you could barely see and looked wet. Then she unbuttoned the top button of Marilee’s shirt. “There,” said Clarisse. “Good luck.” On the way a couple of boys looked at her and she rebuttoned her shirt.

Suddenly, there he was, on the front steps of the Commons, smiling, waiting for her. Oscar DeVilbis wasn’t tall or cute or anything special. She tried to come up with some details to tell Clarisse—some flattering ones. His eyes did crinkle when he smiled, and his teeth were white and straight, but everybody at Sturgis had straight white teeth. His hair was clean and dark—she noticed—almost silky, and lay naturally in place. The light bounced off it like off a raven’s feathers. The hair was good.

They walked across campus to the college theater, his black hair bouncing. She knew hers just sat. She tried to walk as close to him as she could without touching so that the people on campus would understand they were on a date. He smelled clean. “Want to share a popcorn?” he said. She agreed. He paid. She thought they were off to a good start, but after they sat down, before the movie, he said, “What’s your favorite color?” Marilee didn’t have one, but she said, “Blue,” then, after a moment’s thought added, “What’s yours?”

“I don’t really have one,” he said, “but I like blue too.” She decided maybe Oscar DeVilbis wasn’t that bright. He could be on some kind of athletic scholarship, but she couldn’t imagine what sport, certainly not football.

The movie was a French comedy. She was glad she had her glasses to read the subtitles, but worried that there would be nudity or worse stuff. As the movie progressed, she could see it coming. The man and the woman carried a blanket and a basket and picnicked in a beautiful meadow, filled with sunshine and Mozart and birds singing. As they lay together on the blanket, Oscar laughed at a couple inappropriate times. Then the man removed the girl’s top and for a brief second her bare breasts filled the screen like twin planets. Marilee looked straight ahead as Oscar let out a deep breath, but they got through the nudity part and then Marilee laughed too.

After the movie they were sitting at a tiny café table in a place called the Rathskeller, which was actually upstairs above the campus Laundromat, when he leaned close to her face and said, “I like the glasses. You wore them at the second mixer—not the first. They make you look sultry.”

“You were at both mixers?” Sultry, she thought. Ridiculous.

“I was too nervous to talk to you, but I saw you and then I found out who you were. You take art. Right?”

“Yup,” she said.

He leaned even closer and looked at her eyes through her glasses. “I like the color of your eyes,” he said. “What is it?”

“Blue,” she said, in a monotone way, stretching it out, making it two syllables, so it came out, baloo.

“Sorry,” he said. “I’m color-blind.”

She stared at him. “What?” On the floor below the dryers spun and the washers sloshed.

“I don’t see colors very well,” he said.

She reached across the little table and took his hand. “I’m sorry.”

He smiled. His eyes crinkled. “It’s okay, Marilee. They say it’s not fatal.”

She smiled back and looked into his eyes. She could go around campus with him, pointing out the color of things, maybe, after a while, help him with his clothes. They were still holding hands, although now he was holding hers. Sultry, she said to herself again, then aloud, “I like earth colors, actually—browns and ochres and siennas and mahogany, not really blue at all.” She knew she wasn’t pretty, but he seemed to think so. It was good to be thought pretty, even sultry. She shook her head back, so that her hair bounced a little. “So, tell me about yourself,” she said.

“Well, I’m from Toledo and, um, I went to St. Mark’s. I play the piano.”

“Really,” she said, leaning forward, her elbows on the table, her chin in her hands. His eyes were a soft mossy brown, his lips not as thin as she first thought.


*Story first appeared in PANK


Peter Obourn’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in many literary journals and anthologies. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University. Recently, he served as editor for an anthology entitled Adirondack Reflections, published in 2012, a collection of creative writing from thirty years of the Old Forge Writers Workshop, a workshop he participated in for more than ten of those thirty years.

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