In high school she was one of god’s innocents, didn’t know anything about sex, or anyway nothing more than what you’d learn during sex ed, which wasn’t much, though more than you’d learn these days. But she was funny, twitchy and credulous, and smarter than you’d maybe think – or at least smarter than she liked to let on. She never learned anything about people, always looked up where someone had written ‘gullible’ on the ceiling or down at her shoes (which weren’t untied), and always flushed and shook her head and laughed; but maybe that was part of it, her smartness, I mean, since she always seemed happy, too, which I needed.

After high school I sort of lost track of her. She could have gone to a good school, the kind of school I would have loved to have gotten in to but didn’t, only her parents didn’t want her going that far away and sent her off to a lousy state school in the middle of nowhere. So far as travel time went she was farther away than if she’d gone to where she wanted to, but maybe it was cheaper, or maybe they felt better knowing she wouldn’t ever need to fly anywhere. After a year or two I got an email from her, complaining that she couldn’t stand the school and she was transferring to another one, still in the same state but a million miles away politically. I didn’t respond; I was busy being miserable with my own college life and didn’t have energy to spare for anyone else.

After I’d dropped out of school and found that it wasn’t any better out than in, and gone mooching grimly back, she sent me another email, saying she’d gotten pregnant and was getting married. It was a weird sort of an email: I couldn’t tell if she was happy about it or what. I was curious enough that I sent her an email and we had a limping sort of conversation. She sent me a file called “It’s a Boy” that turned out to be a picture of her ultrasound with the tiny penis circled.

She’s still married, and living in the same town she moved out of because she couldn’t stand the school. They’ve got more kids. She looks almost exactly as I remember her, which I can’t quite come to terms with; that face, so awkwardly happy, shining out of a circle of children clearly hers, so familiar and so far away, as distant as the blue shapes of the Cascades we both crossed and recrossed.