She remembered trying so hard not to look at him, in his button up and jeans, walking toward the bowling alley without a hair on his head, but a patch of blond beneath his lower lip. He didn’t talk, but stared intently; the “strong and silent type” her family would explain later, something she was not accustomed to in the sea of men she swam through…looking for a shore to rest her weary heart from the endless dating scene. A black tattoo followed the long of his arm, another aspect so foreign to her she couldn’t help but take glances at it, trying to read it upside down, making only a few Old English letters out with each flick of her eyes. It was this memory, and other hints from that night, that she thought of every time her fingers found the three holes of a smooth marbleized ball, clutching it in her hand and stepping up to the line.
“I’m never this good!” She exclaimed, taking the lead easily with spares and strikes. She wasn’t dressed for the double date she found herself on, more so for the group bowling her friend had led her to believe she was attending. Loose denim, a long sleeve tee, floppy ponytail–and yet he still looked at her…couldn’t tear his eyes from her, but his face was so blank she couldn’t read him. But oh how she tried. Later that evening when he sat diagonally from her in the little vinyl booth, which was no doubt crawling with germs, she darted her eyes from his face to that tattoo, twisted from view as he sipped black coffee from a stained and cracked mug. Self-conscious by nature, she made sure to wipe her lips after each sip of her strawberry milkshake, now sincerely regretting the casualness of her appearance.
She should have stayed, loitering in the diner’s parking lot…watching him light up a cigarette and making the embers glow orange in the early morning darkness. She should have stood beside him, breathed him in, but she ran to the comfort of her car, fumbling with her keys all the while. It was this she regretted and remembered, each time she bowled after. She flung the ten pounds and it thudded against the shiny wood, sending vibrations out through the surrounding empty lanes. She turned around before it crashed into the pins, catching her breath at the man who sat waiting for his turn– metallic green and silver peaking endearingly under the hems of his pant legs. His head was still shaved, but the patch on his chin was gone; her eyes wandered to the v of his t-shirt, the dark cotton hiding her name scrolled across his heart in inky black. When they bowled, she returned to that April night, the night before any of it happened…when they were still two souls wandering with expectant hearts…and bowling shoes tied loosely on their feet.