Romeo and Juliet in Tango
They sat in the same spots in the park every day for three months now. She came down to eat her yogurt and do a page of Sudoku, and he came down at the same time to work on his laptop. Maybe he was a writer or something.
This morning her horoscope had suggested she take the leap that would not be denied… whatever that crap meant, but that wasn’t what had her thinking of talking to him. It was this stupid birthday. She’d be thirty in two weeks and it was time to stop acting like she was sixty. She could talk to him… it would just be talking.
The older Asian man—the one who was blind sat beside her… as he did every day. Wow. They were really all creatures of habit.
“How are you, Jenny Talmage?” he asked. He always used her full name as if anything less just wasn’t her name.
“I’m fine, Ken,” she said, staring at the other man—working on his laptop. Normally, she made eye contact when she spoke with someone, but Ken never looked at her—they just always sat side-by-side and talked. Besides, today… she was going to force laptop guy to make eye contact with her just by sheer will.
Who was she kidding? Maybe he hadn’t even noticed her in three months? Why would he? He looked all rough and steamy… and she looked so normal. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Her mouth had always seemed to be too full, but no one else had ever said anything. Still—nothing added up to equality with laptop guy. Plus, she was queen of the nerds. The building behind her that she worked in basically stamped her as untouchable to a guy like laptop guy. Out of her league… way out of her league.
“Jenny Talmage, how often does the hummingbird flap its wings in an hour?”
Ken asked weird things like this all the time. It was mostly science and animal questions, and sometimes she tried to get ahead of him by asking her own odd questions. It seemed impolite to not venture a guess—so she always did. She’d studied hummingbirds strangely enough for her project, but it was because they could fly backward… if you could make a thing fly backwards… well… that was a beautiful thing.
“Five hundred sixty-one thousand times,” she guessed. It was a reasonable guess.
“Really?” he asked.
Jenny shrugged even though he couldn’t see her. The laptop guy looked up at her bemused… even though he couldn’t have possibly heard her. He was on a bench forty feet away. Weird. Then, he was looking back at his laptop as if the moment had never occurred. Maybe it hadn’t.
“They beat their wings more frequently during courtship,” Jenny said.
“What does that mean?” Ken asked. He tipped his head slightly as if her comment was more ridiculous than normal. Yesterday, they’d discussed whirlpools. This really wasn’t that far from the norm. Maybe he was just old-fashioned and felt even the word “courtship” was dirty.
“That their courtships are more exhausting than humans,” Jenny said, setting her yogurt to the side and opening up her Sudoku book to a new puzzle. With Ken feeling chattery… there would be no way she’d get an actual puzzle done, so she just started making notes in her code to transcribe later in her lab’s computer. She really ought to know how often they beat their wings—it’d be useful information possibly.
“Hotel uniform,” she scribbled into one of the boxes to remind her to look up an “Hu” word when she got back up there. That would be enough to jog her memory. It’d be interesting if she’d guessed close. “561,000,” she wrote in the next box, murmuring it under her breath as she did.
There! Again! She’d seen it in her periphery. The laptop guy raised his head topped with “cinnamon toast” colored hair and his blue eyes focused on her for a second in surprise. Jenny looked behind her. No one there—it was just she and Ken—same as every day for the last three months when he’d been here and she’d been wanting to talk to him. When she looked back, he was back to that laptop. Maybe she’d imagined it. Weird.
“You’re sure? Five hundred and sixty-one thousand times?” Ken asked the oddest follow-up questions. He had a sense of humor so he had to know she was kidding with these guesses, right?
“I would never venture a guess at something as important as wing speed if I wasn’t sure,” she said.