Chapter 5: Pocky, Skittles, and Other New World Inventions

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"You want toast or French toast?" I leaned over the right side of my bed to where John was lying on the ground. Knowing he was still asleep, I asked the question again, then when he didn't answer, I crawled down to the space on the wooden floor that was between my bed and the wall. He was curled up against the wall, and I sat next to him, looking at his sleeping form and wondering if I should doodle it. I got my wish; John was comatose and I was able to grab a notepad and a pencil. I pressed the charcoal to the paper and the sleeping form of John emerged onto paper. I doodled in how peaceful he looked, and his gentle eyes and sharp nose. And then he woke up, and I shoved the paper underneath my mattress.

"Morning," I said dryly. "Did you hear my question?"

"French toast," John said.

"You have to watch me make it," I said. "That's the fee for your breakfast today. Maybe you can make me breakfast at some point."

He followed me downstairs and watched me make the mix, adding egg and cinnamon and milk. I slowly dipped the bread into the mixture and put it on the saucepan.

"Now you," I said, smirking up at him. "Let's see you do it."

"Just watch me," he said. The bread was submerged and he added it gently to the stove. "Not so hard, then, was it?"

***

After we had breakfast we walked around town with the guitar strapped to my back, a slow walk next to each other, me pointing out various structures like shiny abstract buildings and the newest car models. I was aching to touch his hand, just to be able to be touching those powerful hands that created such beauty was almost too much for me. But that was wrong. Especially after last night. So I kept my hands at a distance away from his, tucked safely into my jacket pockets.

John kept his hands behind his back as we walked. He was still wearing the Hawaiian shirt but had changed into a pair of my father's jeans. He was wearing his leather jacket (which I had come to appreciate), and had kept his black boots and was wearing a cap tilted at an angle which showed off his auburn hair, still in the Elvis phase before Astrid had styled his hair. I had to look up at him against the sun, and I felt like he was glowing.

He made fun of some things and admired others. The 2013 skinny pants he appreciated; they reminded him of the teddy boy era he had gone through that had driven Mimi crazy. "You should meet her, y/n," he had joked, doing a little step in the street. "You'd get along fine."

I thought of Mimi, from what little I knew about her. "Sure," I said. "Does she approve of your girlfriend?"

"Haven't got one."

I was confused. Wasn't John dating Cynthia?

"Are you sure?" I asked him. We turned a corner.

"Why would you assume I have a girlfriend?"
Caught. I looked away and said, "I don't know. Never mind."

And then he asked me, "Do you have a boyfriend?"
I looked at the sky. "Nope. Never had one." John exploded into laughter. "What? Even if you are a bit pushy sometimes you are a pretty bird, and I'm surprised."

"Not everyone gets a partner in 2013, John," I told him. "Sometimes, we wait."

"Partner," he said, shaking his head. Then he stopped and peered into a window. "What's this?"

It was a little bodega shop. "D'ya want to see what's inside?" I asked him. "I bet they have sweets and things that they didn't have in 1962."

"Sure." John's hand brushed against my jacket pocket as he led the way inside. I tried to see straight as I walked beside him. The sunlight from inside dimmed as we came face to face with packets of digestives and boxes of tea. A sleepy shopkeeper was thumbing through a magazine.

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