It was my mother who told me.

“Jennifer, I mean, Thuy’s back from Yale for spring break, Jacob.”

Thuy’s our neighbor and an old classmate of mine from high school. We had been friends since we were children. One day when she was eleven, she had randomly decided her new American name would be Jennifer. I argued for something like Thea that would be at least close to Thuy, but she stuck with Jennifer and in time only her family and I were left using her original name. My mom sometimes accommodated me.

“That’s cool,” I replied as I stuck my hand in the Frito bag.

“When’s the last time you saw her?”

“Uhh… I guess last summer. The Nguyens all went on that skiing trip over Christmas, so she wasn’t here then.”

“That’s a long time for you two.”

“Yah. But we message each other some during the semester, so I know what’s up.”

Actually, Thuy and I messaged each other every week at least, but I didn’t need to go into that.

“Well, why don’t you go check in?”

“Yeah, ok.” I stuck another bunch of chips in the dip bowl and popped them in my mouth.

“You don’t want to see her?” my mom asked as I munched away.

“Huh? What?”

“Well, you don’t seem in any rush.”

“You just mentioned it to me! Anyway, I’m not just going to go over there for no reason.”

“Just go welcome her back. It’s not that complicated.”

“Mom. Guys do not just go to people’s houses to welcome them back. I’d have to take a gift basket or something to complete the image. Maybe some doilies that I had knitted.”

My mother sighed and went to stick her head in the fridge looking for something. “Guys don’t ever get girlfriends either,” she muttered under her breath.

My ears turned pink. Had she said what I think she did?

She tossed an onion on the counter and then suddenly fixed me with an I-cant-believe-you-actually-are-acting-like-this look. “I just don’t get you two.”

“Who? Me and Thuy?”

She sighed exasperated. “For a kid as smart as you, you’re awfully clueless sometimes. Yes, of course!”

I didn’t really like where this conversation was headed. What had gotten into my mom? “What’s not to get?”

“For two people who fit together like you do… it’s just a waste is all. Are you scared? ‘Cause I understand that, Jacob.”

“Mom, we’ve talked about this before. There’s nothing like that between us. We’re friends. She dates. I date. We talk about our dates to each other.”

“Must be a one-sided conversation ’cause I haven’t seen you go out on a date in some time.”

“I date.”

“You haven’t gone out in weeks.”

“I do have this whole full-time job thing with school at the same time.”

“I know.”

“And besides I don’t tell you everything.”

“Oh.” She seemed pleased. “Really? Oh. Well, that’s good. Sometimes I think you don’t have any secrets. It’s not healthy for you to not have anything to hide from me.”

“Well, don’t worry. There’s plenty of stuff you don’t know about me.”



She didn’t say anything.

“Well, all right then.” I did have secrets, didn’t I? Maybe I did need to get out more. “I’m gonna go play some basketball in the driveway.”

“Seems like a good idea.”

I was grabbing a ball in the hallway on the way out when my mother called after me. “Bouncing a ball really loud to get someone’s attention is a lot more manly than knocking on a girl’s door!”

I slammed the door behind me. What had gotten into her? Besides, I was really in the mood to shoot some hoops. What? She thought I was going to run around in circles trying to make a lot of noise to get Thuy’s attention? I was 20, not 12. She must think I was a peacock or something. Maybe one of those lizards with the big fans on their neck. I imagined my lizard fans sticking out while I paraded in the driveway, scratching the dirt, then threw the ball up at the goal, rattling it good. What’d she know?

I caught the ball as it came down, ran to the corner, and sent it back up, swishing it in cleanly.

I had learned to shoot mostly because of Thuy. When we were eight, we learned that her parents would let her stay out shooting balls with me ’til it was good and dark. Thought it was good exercise for her instead of reading all the time. It wasn’t the first thing we had come up with to spend more time together. We also competed relentlessly in school, always trying to get a better score than the other. I still remembered the first time I heard a slam on my window and looked out to see Thuy pushing some A in Reading or Social Studies against the glass. As we moved into high school, we still competed, but it was entirely unspoken. I loved it when she got an award I was up for.

Thuy was finishing off her second year of Yale now, while I was still at home, taking classes at the U. I had spent a semester at Cornell, but then my mother got sick, and I was needed at home. I spent about a month resenting it, until I discovered my mom crying over my old acceptance letter at the kitchen table. I got over it.

The ball came down through the net, so I ran threw it, down the baseline, and then did a quick pivot and shoot. In again.

We were a funny pair, Thuy and I. My family had been in Arkansas at least four generations that we knew of, while Thuy and family arrived in the house next to us when I was six, all the way from Vietnam, via a year in Minnesota. In fact, they lived on the last lot we had sold off from the family farm. It was suburbia now with one white wooden house and screen porch, mine, and a row of nice little brick ranches, hers.

I did a couple quick free throws as the ball came out. Both went in cleanly.

I wasn’t a great basketball player being a short six feet, but I had learned to shoot. Our team made it to the state semis with me as mostly an outside shooter. Coach kept me out there, because I had never figured out how to get past the six-foot-ten guys. But give me a couple inches of free space and the odds were it was going in.

I took the ball again, pretended to pass, then ducked to the outside line. The center tossed the ball out to me from the double team on him. The clock was ticking down. I heard the crowd counting. 5. 4. I launched it up. The ball hit the rim, went flying up in the air, and then fell in with a little swoosh.

“I always said you could make that shot 19 times out of 20.”

I turned to Thuy with a big grin. She stood not three feet from me in low jeans and a white top, with her trademark hair that cascaded to the middle of her back. The corner of her mouth was turned up in that little smile she had been showing me since she was six.

“Hey, you,” I replied. “20 out of 20 would have been better.”

Thuy sank cross-legged on the driveway. What could be more home than this? “I can’t believe you are still beating yourself up about missing a shot. It was freaking high school, and if you hadn’t made the rest of them, we’d never have even made the state tournament, much less lose by one in the semis.”

I tossed the ball in the net and let it bounce away. “You know,” I said sitting. “My goal in life was to peak at 18 and find eternal glory in the school trophy case. With that other guy, and the other one with the funny shorts. But since I missed, I’m gonna be forced to do something else with my life.”

“That’s gotta suck.”

“I was going for brain-dead DirecTV addict at 19, but now I’m 20 and gotta keep thinking and crap.”

“I hates thinkin’.”

“I hates rabbits,” I replied in my Yosemite Sam voice. I brushed my brown hair back out of my eyes and we looked at each other.

“How long-”

“How’ve you-”

We both spoke at once.

“You go,” I said.

“Naw, you.”


“I ain’t talkin’.”

“That’s your Yale education? ‘I ain’t talkin’?”

“Don’t get on me. I learned English from you, remember?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” She’d been blaming me for every English mistake she ever made for years. When Thuy first arrived next door, she only spoke Vietnamese. Her dad spoke English some, but he wasn’t around much, so it was up to six-year-old me. Since she was now publishing essays in magazines and such, I guess I did an OK job.

“It’s ’cause of you, I have this accent that goes over so well in the Asian-American Advocacy Consortium at school.”

“Hell, don’t put that one on me. Your accent is stronger than mine is and you know it.”

“I know it, but you always turn so lovely pink when I tease you. I could charge admission and show off the Great Glowing Boy.” Thuy started laughing. “See! See! You’re a light bulb,” she declared and started singing the tune to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

“Good to see this hasn’t changed.”

“I’m always here to help, Jake.”

“Not enough,” I thought then realized I’d said it out loud.

Thuy got quiet suddenly. “That’s not fair.”

“I didn’t mean anything. It was just a thought that got out.”

Suddenly, Thuy was standing and staring past me. I followed her eyes to discover my mother walking towards us. She embraced Thuy and hugged her tight. “I’m glad to see you again, Jennifer.”

“Thanks, Mrs. B.”

“How was school?”

“It’s over for a week or two, so it’s good.”

“I’m glad to see you around. You’ve always been a part of our family, you know.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she said with a look to me.

My mother turned to me. “And I’m glad to see the basketball still works.”

“Umm – yeah, it still goes in the basket. Funny, that.” I tried to give a look to Thuy but she seemed to be hiding her face behind her hair.

“Jacob, I’m gone. I’ll see you on Monday,” Mom said quickly.

“Monday? Where are you going?”

“My getaway at the cabin. I’ll take the cell but if you call me with both legs attached, I’m gonna come after you.”

“I don’t remember this.”

“That’s ’cause you never listen to a word I say.”

“Isn’t it too late to drive that far?”

“It’s not past 3:00, Jake.” She kissed Thuy’s cheek. “Good to see you again, Jen.” As she got in the car, she called out, “Keep him out of trouble.”

“I wonder what she my mom thinks we are going to do?”


“Oh, yeah.”

“Did you bring the crack pipe?”

“Left it at school.”

“That’s too bad.”


“You know you should get it fixed.”

“The crack pipe?”


“I’m embarrassed that I heard that.”

“It was a stretch, I’ll admit.”

“Oh, Jake, there’s this guy in my dorm that hangs out with the crew sometimes. Worst forced jokes ever. Ever.”

“Let’s go inside.”

“Yeah, OK.” She talked as I held the door for her. “You’ve no idea how bad it is. He’d try to make a joke after a documentary on Human Trafficking or something. No sense of appropriateness.”

“You should tell him so.”

“We do! I do! We’ve thrown things at him. He thinks he’s our court jester or something.”

“Maybe if you threw sharp objects, he’d get the point.”

“That’s overkill, don’t you think?” We both paused and grinned at each other.

“Oh my god, I’m embarrassed for you.”

Thuy fell on the sofa in the living room with me on my beanbag chair just as it had always been.

“It’s eight o’clock, Thuy.”

She glanced at the clock. “I’m gonna go tell my mother I won’t be back for dinner.”

“I’ll order a pizza.”

Thuy didn’t turn around as she left, she just yelled back, “No, we’re going out.”

Going out? When was the last time the two of us went out? I ducked into the shower while Thuy was out.

About five minutes later I was buttoning my khakis, when I heard, “Jake, get this–” and Thuy turned the corner into my bedroom. For no good reason, I felt a little embarrassed with no shoes or shirt and my brown hair still dripping water down my skin. “Oh. Sorry, I–” Thuy started. Was she a bit embarrassed herself?

“Naw, it’s OK.”

“I didn’t realize. I’ll just–”

“It’s OK, Thuy,” I insisted. “It’s not like we never went swimming before.”

“OK, uh…” she seemed confused. “Jake, hun, have you been working out?”

“Very funny.”

“No, seriously,” she paused for a second. “Jake, you turned into a hottie!”

“Go away.” I went into the bathroom to comb my hair.

She appeared in the doorway and looked at me again. “Why won’t you confess to working out?”

“Because I don’t.”

“Ok, ok.” I chose a dark gray long sleeve and pulled it over my head. “So that’s from the moving job? I’m going to tell my future boyfriends to become movers.”

I did know I was lifting things easier now than when I started. Did it actually show? I wanted to flex to see if there was any change but remembered Thuy was watching.

“So, what did your mom say?”

“Get this.” She handed me a note in Vietnamese. I had taught myself a little bit two or three years back for some unknown reason, but all I could make out was her name, Tuesday, aunt, and a little more.

“What’s the bit on the second line?”

“I had to think about that for a second, too. So basically, she’s gone to help my aunt who’s nursing my uncle. She’ll be in Nashville until Tuesday. I called her, but all she said was that everyone was fine, she shouldn’t talk on the highway, despite the fact that that is all she does, and to stay safe. And say hello. Oh, and she was somewhere around Jackson, Tennessee. That means she left 15 minutes after we said hello.”

“That’s a bit weird.”

“Yeah, and since my dad gets back in town on Thursday, it’s just me.”

“Guess we’ll rent some movies or something.”

“Guess so. Look, you are too well dressed for me now. I’m going to go change. Meet me in the driveway.”

I found some socks and shoes and headed out. The night was a little cool with not a cloud, letting the whole sky sparkle softly. Not even the moon dared challenge the stars tonight. I gazed upwards slowly naming the constellations and stars that I knew until I felt a poke in the ribs.

My eyes traveled down to find Thuy standing next to me also looking at the stars above. She wore a simple black dress with thin straps and a plunging neckline and back. The dress fell at an angle across her legs from mid-calf on one side to just above the knee on the other. A thin gold plate necklace lay around her slender neck and something small sparkled in her ears, reflecting the light of the streetlamps and the stars.

My best friend was beautiful.

Since I was six feet and she was five-foot-two, my eyes kept falling down her chest where I could see white cups supporting her breasts. When I realized where I was staring, I tried to look up at the stars and not at her.

“Did you watch the Leonids this year?” she asked me.

When we were in the seventh grade, Thuy had done a report on meteors and the Leonids meteor shower. We had snuck out of our windows at one in the morning that night to lie on the grass watching the stars fall.

“Not this year,” I told her. I wanted to say something. About how she looked. About how beautiful she was.

“It was a good display.”

“Too bad I missed it.”

“Veejay and I drove out to this hillside to watch it, but too many lights in the area really.” I don’t know why but I felt a lump in my throat.

“How’s he doing?”

“Fine, I think. We broke up about a month ago.”

“I’m sorry, Thuy. I know you liked him. He always sounded decent when you messaged about him. Not a slimeball anyway.”

“Yeah, he’s a good guy, but it wasn’t there. Neither of us was devastated when it ended.”

“Hey now that you are back on the market, you will find someone else that gets your blood pumping.”

“Gets my panties wet, you mean.”

I laughed. “If that’s your thing.”

“Of course, it’s my thing. I can get horny too even if I haven’t consummated.”

“I want to hear more about this horny thing you’ve got going.”

“Uh-huh. I ‘m sure you do.”

“Tell me, tell me.”

She threw a devilish smile at me and said, “Well, let’s go eat and I will tell you all about the Yummies that get me going.”

Thuy drove and did tell me of all her prospects. There was the tall Brazilian soccer player with long muscles who was all over her, and she wouldn’t mind if he had been all over her, if he had ever bothered to care if she was dating someone else or not.

“Don’t you worry that if he doesn’t care whether or not you’re dating now that he won’t care when he’s dating you?”

“Jake, it’s not a long-term relationship with him that I’m after.”

She also told me about the thin, silent guy in black in Eighteenth Century lit class who kept stealing glances. I even got to hear about BOAC, “Best Ass on Campus”. Turned out he was gay, so she and her friends let him keep the title, but they had to identify a BOAC II.

“Aren’t the letters wrong? Shouldn’t it be BAOC?”

Thuy giggled. “I just know he’s BOAC. Maybe BAOC’s too hard to say.”

As we hit town, it was already getting late and most restaurants were closed. We ended up eating some greasy hamburgers and nachos at some bar stools, totally over-dressed for the occasion.

“So what about you?”


“Yeah, who do you want to do?”

“Like a celebrity?”

“No, I mean who are you dating. Work with me here.”

“I don’t have much time for girls right now.”

“You’ve got time to look.”

“I don’t wanna talk about this right now.”

“Jake, I’ve told you about every guy I can think of. We talked once about a yeast infection. Your parents. We talk about everything.”

“I didn’t know you had broken up with Veejay for over a month.”

Thuy was silent for a second. “Yeah, I didn’t know I was hiding it, but I guess I was.”

“Umm, so,” I began. “There’s Tracy at work. I think if I wanted a sex fling, she’d be my girl.”

“What do you like about her?”

“Not much actually. But she’s nice and I get the idea she’d be very willing.”

“Tracy puts out.”

“I don’t know, but she’s always doing these blatant things to get my attention. She actually stared at me once sucking her finger.”

“Are you sure she exists and isn’t some porn fantasy?”

“If she were my fantasy, we’d be doing it.”

“Why aren’t you?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I feel like… I’m waiting for someone else.”

Thuy nodded. “So one girl agrees with me that you’re hot, but you’re not interested. Any actual dates?”

“Not too much.”

“Not a single one in however many months.”

“Alright, Jane, you nosy slut.”

Thuy’s smile broadened. “Who you calling nosy?”

“Yeah, yeah. So there was this woman in Physics.”

“Oooh, a physics babe. All the cutest ones do it quantum-style.”

I paused and gave Thuy my look. She quietly formed a little halo over her head with her fingers and waited.

“So, I’d noticed her the first day. Why? Ummm.. just a killer body, essentially, yeah. She’s black with these amazing braids–”

“Tell me about the killer body.”

“You’re in a mood tonight.”

Thuy said nothing.

“Fine. She’s got a great ummm how do I say…”


“Yeah, pretty much. And why are you looking at me like that? These long legs and big smile. I started having dreams about her. Yes, those kinds of dreams!”

“I didn’t say anything. Don’t yell at me.”