Another glove story. This picture has been hanging around, poking its fingers at me for a while. The picture itself is interesting. You can see that the glove had been there for a while before I captured the image. And the glove continues to have staying power. As of this writing, it’s still there. But I could never place it in the world I’ve been building- until I recently looked at the date of the photo and thought about Janie from Story 5.
And that’s when I discovered that this glove belonged to that hopeful young woman and that she had discarded it in anticipation of an event. An anticipation that – as it turned out – languished and deteriorated over time as the glove did.
At 9:45 on the morning of Sunday, 7 January 2018, a lanky man in a gray jacket; brown Carhartts; a black, wool knit cap; and a gray backpack was walking south on North Jackson Street in front of the farm supply store at A Street. As he approached the intersection, the light changed and he didn’t break stride, stepping into the crosswalk. As he strode across the street, his head was focused right and down, the right and down angles increasing as he moved. When he reached the south side of A Street – face now pointed at a spot just south of the aluminum pole on the corner, he immediately stopped and pulled out his phone. He muttered, “Huh. Still there” as he crouched and pointed the back of the phone at a black and gray knit glove folded untidily just south of the base of the pole.
Four-tenths of a mile to the north and slightly east – as the lanky man looked at the screen of his phone – two women came out of the east exit of the coffee shop on Sixth and Main Street.
“I guess that purchase was a bit premature,” said one of the women, smiling and looking to her left directly at the other’s hands while pulling a white knit glove onto her own left hand. She pivoted on her left foot and started north on Main Street. After three steps, she abruptly stopped and turned to look to her left and behind her.
The second woman had stopped and was looking down at her hands, held chest high. They were balled into loose fists, side-by side, cocked up at the wrists, knuckles up; each hand held a brown leather glove. The young woman’s gaze was focused slightly to the left.
The woman with the white gloves took two steps toward her friend while saying, “Oh, Janie. I’m. I didn’t mean -”
“It’s been ten months, Lace,” Janie said.
Lacey stopped and took off her left glove. She paired it with the right glove and stuffed both into the pocket of her coat. She reached out and took the gloves out of Janie’s hands. Lacey then put her arms around Janie. A moment later, Janie’s arms wrapped around Lacey’s back. Both women took a breath.
. . .
Ten months earlier, on the morning of 4 March 2017, Lacey and Janie were standing in an apartment on A Street. Lacey said, “Why did I need to come in?” Her head scanned the apartment as she said, “Urf. I hate boys’ domiciles.” When her gaze returned to her friend she said, “Janie! What are you so happy about?”
“Stand right there,” Janie said. She then walked across the tan carpet to a door which stood ajar across the living room.
“Janie, what the hell?”
“Just listen,” Janie said as she opened, stepped through and re-set the door to its previous angle.
“Janie, I thought we were -” Lacey stopped talking when she heard her friend’s voice, lower and huskier through the gap in the door.
“Bro, I just need you to hold onto it until I can get the balls to ask her. I know I’ll give it away if it’s hidden here somewhere,” Janie said.
Neither woman spoke as Janie re-emerged from the bedroom. She stopped just outside the door, carefully pulled it to the same gap as before and said, “Did you hear?”
“I did. You shouldn’t eavesdrop.”
“Lace! He knew I was coming. I have a key. It’s…” Janie trailed off.
“Does he really call his friends ‘bro?'”
“Lacey!” Janie stamped her left foot down onto the carpet. There was silence in the room for four seconds.
“Janie and Alex sitting in a tree!” Lacey burst out, the corners of her mouth rising and her eyes crinkling from the outside folds.
“I’m not crazy, am I? It is what I think it is, right?”
“You’re not crazy. It is. But it shouldn’t be a surprise, right? You told me you started picking Alex’s tux when you seventeen.”
“No. Yes. I know! I just… Lace! He’s going to ask me!”
Lacey crossed the tan carpet to her friend and put her arms around Janie and pulled her into a hug. “He is. When do you think the wedding will be? I need some warning so I can save up for the bridesmaid dress.”
Janie pulled back from the hug and put her hands on Lacey’s upper arms. She said, “Oh, not for a long time. A long time. He’s got to get his shit together before we get married.”
A deep, rich “Ha!” exploded from Lacey’s mouth before she exclaimed”Good!” Then she reached up, place a hand on either side of her friend’s face, pulled her head forward and kissed her forehead. Lacey was quieter when she continued, “Good. Now let’s go get coffee.”
The two women separated and Janie picked up a green wool coat from the couch near the door. Janie put the coat on and reached into the left pocket. Her hand emerged with a pair of black and gray striped, knit wool gloves. She held the gloves in her left hand while Lacey exited the front door ahead of her. Janie pulled the door closed. While she dug in her right-hand pants pocket, Lacey pulled a bright blue knit glove onto her right hand. Janie’s right hand emerged from her pocket with a key. She slid the key into the lock.
“You know,” Lacey said as she pulled her left hand into the blue sheath of the second glove. “You’re going to have to get different gloves.”
The lock snicked and as Janie pulled the key out with her right hand, she brought her left hand up, looked down at the gloves in her hand and said, “What? Why?”
Lacey pointed to her friend’s left hand and said, “Because the giant rock will catch on the snug fit knit of those things.” The muffled slap of her palms punctuated her next words: “And you shouldn’t eavesdrop.” Lacey turned and ran into the parking lot.
Janie followed, saying “ha, ha, ha!” and then yelling “snug fit knit” while looking at the gloves in her left hand.
The two walked to a white 2008 Subaru Forester. Lacey pushed a button on a remote with her left hand and the car beeped twice. There was a faint thunk. The two women opened the car doors simultaneously. Lacey entered, sat and closed her door. Janie was looking back over her shoulder at the apartment door. “Yo! Get in the car!” Lacey yelled. Janie turned, sat, and pulled the passenger door closed.
Seven minutes later, the Subaru was pointed east on A Street, stopped at the light at Jackson Street. Janie said, “I wasn’t eavesdropping, Lace!”
“Janie and Alex sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G,” Lacey chanted with a huge grin on her face.
Janie joined in on the next line and both shouted the words of the third, “Then comes marriage!” There was a buzz of a window motor as the traffic light changed. The car began to accelerate, the window slid down, and Janie threw her gloves out the window.
The thumb of the right glove caught on the top of the steadily retracting window and that glove tumbled down the side of the car. It was pulled forward as the car moved into the intersection and ended up in the first lane of Jackson Street. The left glove flew unimpeded to the sidewalk. The acceleration of the car gave it enough eastward impetus for it to tuck itself behind the silver-gray aluminum base of the traffic signal post on the corner.
As the glove was tumbling to a stop, Lacey turned toward her friend and said, “What did you just do?”
“My gloves!” Janie said, held up her empty hands and laughed.
“What? You said they’d snag!”
Both women laughed as the car bumped through the dip on the east side of Jackson Street and three snowflakes drifted through the open window, landing on Janie’s bare right hand.
Behind the car, on the sidewalk, the first accumulation of flakes melted on the glove. But 37 minutes later, it was hidden by a thin blanket of white. That evening a state-operated snowplow roared south on Jackson Street directing a snow from the street onto the sidewalk. The pressure of that thin cover of snow began to form creases along the folded palm and pinkie finger.
In mid-May Janie and Alex had an end-of-the-school-year dinner at an intimate, candlelit table at a restaurant Alex couldn’t really afford, during which Janie could be seen, if anyone was observing closely, periodically grasping the fingers of her left hand in her right hand, then releasing the grip and placing the hands gently on the tabletop and then moments later moving them to her lap. As she unconsciously performed this action for the fifth time that early evening, 1.2 miles to the north in the gravel lot on the southwest corner of A and Jackson, the right rear tire of a black Dodge Ram pickup spun and spat gravel across the glove.
In the late afternoon of 8 July, Janie and Alex stood hand-in-hand at the Narrows Overlook on the Ridgeline Trail in Ponderosa State Park in McCall, Idaho. They stood in silence, looking west and slightly north over a narrow span of lake with the sun warming their faces. Alex shifted his weight, took in a breath and pivoted slightly toward Janie. He said, “Janie” and as he paused, Janie’s exhalation stopped. Just over a second later, he continued, “I’m glad we came up here. This is pretty.” He put his right arm around Janie’s shoulders and Janie’s briefly held breath puffed from her mouth. 170 miles north-northwest the glove sat exposed in the bright sun of the fourth 90-plus degree day in a row in Moscow.
On the evening of October 21, Janie and Alex sat on the couch in Alex’s apartment watching the closing credits of season 2, episode 10 of “Game of Thrones” scroll up the flat screen in front of them. Janie’s head was on Alex’s shoulder. Alex reached to the table in front of them, picked up a remote control and turned off the TV. He set down the remote and picked up Janie’s left hand with his right. He lifted it and said, “Happy birthday, babe.” Janie turned her head up and to her right in the silence that followed. Three seconds later, she again faced forward. Three-tenths of a mile east of the apartment, the glove absorbed the moisture of a late fall rain.
. . .
Outside the coffee shop, Lacey and Janie with their arms still wrapped around each other, sighed out a simultaneous breath. They both chuckled. Then, with her chin on her friend’s shoulder, Lacey said, “He’ll ask, J. He’ll ask. You know you’re not in a big hurry to do the thing, anyway.”
“I know,” Janie said. “I just…” She trailed off as the two women moved back from each other. Lacey looked at the brown gloves in her hand for a moment. Then she took one, and held the open cuff out toward Janie. Janie slipped her right hand into it. Lacey then did the same with the left glove. Janie hesitated for a moment and then reached forward. As her hand disappeared under the calfskin, she said, “Okay. Okay. I really do think he has something planned. I just need to be patient.”
“Yes.” Lacey pulled her gloves out of her pocket and sorted them in her hands. She slipped the right one on.
“I just wish I hadn’t been eavesdropping that day,” Janie said. Her face was turned down, looking at her hands as she smoothed the back of her left glove with her right hand. She didn’t see Lacey look up at her.
“You shouldn’t sneak into his apartment,” Lacey said.
“I don’t sneak,” Janie said as she turned her face up to her friend’s. She was silent for just over a second.
The corners of Lacey’s lips rose slowly during the silence. She ended the pause with, “One of these days you should just appear in his bedroom naked. That he’d like.” Janie’s eyebrows drew together slightly and then they rose and her eyes opened wide as she turned slightly and gazed into the empty space over her friend’s right shoulder. The corners of her lips rose and her mouth opened slightly as a barely vocalized chuckle bubbled out of her.
Lacey watched this reaction for a moment before her eyes opened wide and she said, “Janie…”