After the meet, Jesse and I stretch over by the bleachers: legs spread, feet touching. We hook fingers and pull each other until fire shoots up our hamstrings.
Jesse’s just won the 3,000-meter; sweat is on him like skin. Me, I do pole vault and am nothing special. I just like that moment when nothing in the world is touching me.
When Coach walks up he puts his hands on Jesse’s head, his fingers like white sausages on a grill of Jesse’s cornrows.
“How ‘bout this cheetah of yours,” Coach says and I smile and nod because that’s what you do when your coach says something like that. But I feel Jesse’s fingers tense. His feet kick out against my soles.
I watch Jesse watch Coach head back where parents huddle by the boosters’ shack, fanning themselves with Track & Field programs. It’s July. It’s thick with summer. The muscles tighten by Jesse’s jaw; I can tell how his teeth must be smashed against each other. But I don’t say anything.
It’s bigger than this. It’s also last night. How I walked Bingo the long way past The Scoop just so I could go by Jesse’s. I do this sometimes. Standing on their front lawn I saw him and his family all in the living room and I knew what they were doing. That afternoon the judges let Zimmerman off the hook. I saw them all watching TV and then I rapped on the window. Just softly with my palm. I waved to Jesse and after a minute I knew he’d come outside. We walked and it was just the sound of Bingo’s nails on the sidewalk.
When it’s quiet like that it eats at me so I started saying something, but Jesse said, “Cass, don’t.”
He said, “You can’t.”
I pull Jesse’s fingers now. I stretch him down so he’s facing the grass. All I know is I love him. This is something I know and don’t say. But I do, and I pull on his fingers and I rub my thumbs over his knuckles, which are always rough like this, rough like tree bark and that’s not because of blackness or whiteness but just because of eczema. He flakes year-round like wintertime.
Jesse stretches me now and there’s that moment where he’s pulling and I’m letting him and I smile and so does he. I’m moving through air and somehow time, too, just rushing forward without anyone knowing what will become of us.