I hadn't seen Carol in nearly twenty years until our lunch that day. She was even more beautiful than I imagined she'd be, the birthmark in the shape of Idaho still accentuating her dimpled smile, but now her features benefitted from the confidence in which they were carried, the maturity of a young mother quickly replacing my memories of her as a gangly young teen. She explained that life in the city suited her well. That raising a family was fabulous, but that the cure-for-cancer fundraisers to which she devoted her time and the organization's marathons that she trained for and ran in gave an even greater meaning to her life. And me? She said she'd heard something about teaching. I told her I was a teacher, "was" being the operative word. The subject is an unbelievably sore one, but I let her know, without specifics, how I'd been falsely accused of sexual misconduct by a student, and how the administration couldn't afford to keep me on after that. What I didn't tell her about were all the pills I took one evening shortly thereafter, and how I surprised myself by waking up. Now I was in sales, I explained, industrial heaters. Her city was in my region. Hence, my visit. From there our "catching up" got thankfully sidetracked by discussion of our youth together. The recollections we shared comforted me in ways that seemed therapeutic. One fine detail, though, on which we couldn't agree, involved the 4th of July river parade up in the mountains where her parents and mine used to rent a cabin together for the holiday. The specific issue that threw our conversation off course was the question of what each of us wore--Carol, her brother Billy, and I--the time we commanded our own patriotically decorated canoe downriver, part of the parade. All we could agree on, as she twisted angel hair pasta in the tines and I a salad nicoise, was that it had been Billy in the draping red jersey shirt, yet who wore white and who wore blue remained debatable. Carol kept insisting she donned the blue jersey, but I could still visualize the photos our parents took while we three kids raised our paddles in passing. In my mind's eye Carol wore white, but she told me no, no, no, it was I in white and she in blue; she swore upon this fact. Upon her sighing I tried convincing her otherwise, and round and round this way we went until our plates were picked clean and the time we'd set aside all ticked away. Then Carol apologized for having to scamper off for her toddler at day care and I explained, no worries, that it had been wonderful to see her after so very long, and anyway I needed to check in for my flight soon enough. So we hugged and said goodbyes as a cab driver put my luggage into the trunk. Then, for hours afterward, en route for home, a traffic jam of thoughts clotted my mind, all roads leading to the great city of Nostalgia. As soon as I returned to my little coastal apartment, I wrestled the clutter in my walk-in storage closet, not sure what in fact I might find. I pored through binders, accordion file folders, and shoeboxes resting against the back wall. Eventually I unearthed the photo from the river parade, and the canoe was just as I'd remembered--as long as a Nile crocodile and propped out with streamers and fake muskets and tri-cornered colonial hats rigged on long poles, fore and aft. And there we were, waving our paddles hello to our cheering parents. They were out of picture, but I remember them standing at the bank, clapping and whistling and calling our names. Then, examining the detail, there was Billy in his big red shirt, proud as any sea captain, just as Carol and I had agreed. And there was Carol in blue and me in white and the instant recognition that I'd been wrong and she'd been right. Only in part, really, for I quickly came to another understanding that this artifact of childhood wasn't necessarily the true account of what occurred that day. The same could be said for many days since.
BIO: Roland Goity edits fiction for the online journal LITnIMAGE. Recent stories appear in Fiction International, Blue Lake Review, Necessary Fiction, Raleigh Review, Caper Literary Journal and Grey Sparrow Journal. He is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology EXPERIENCED: Rock Music Tales of Fact & Fiction (Vagabondage Press).