“Oh, man,” she said, as the chocolate sloshed in her grip, tossing the blob of aerosol whipped cream onto the shoe of the person standing next to her at the counter.
“Hey, watch it, Racer X!” the girl said, bending down to blot the cream off the torn toe of her Converse sneaker.
“If I’m Racer X, you’re Chim Chim,” Tracey muttered reflexively.
The girl peered at Tracey and smirked a little.
“Now that’s not nice.”
Tracey felt her face redden and looked down at the sticky wet spot she’d left on the floor.
The girl nudged her arm and the cocoa sloshed again.
“No, really. It was nice. I had almost forgotten about Chim Chim. He was a dog or something, right?”
“Monkey,” Tracy said, licking the back of her chocolate-covered hand. “He was a monkey.”
“I knew that.” The girl smiled more broadly.
There was an awkward silence while Tracey tried to decide if she should go back to her table. She was startled when the girl reached for her again.
“That’s a nice calculator you’ve got there. Here, let me carry it back to your table for you.”
The girl took off across the coffee house, Tracey trailing along. She pulled a chair up next to Tracey’s and sat down, placing the calculator on top of the pile of books.
“That’s a Voyage 200 PLT,” she said. “You’re serious about this aren’t you?”
The girl’s voice had a teasing quality that made Tracey squirm and itch. She felt a hive breaking out on her neck.
“How’d you know where I was sitting?” Tracey asked.
The both looked at the pile of books and Tracey laughed sheepishly.
“Actually, I saw you sitting here and wanted to meet you, so I followed you up to the counter. It was your t-shirt.”
Tracey looked down at her faded red t-shirt covered in white printing that outlined all of the chemical interactions of the Kreb’s Cycle.
“No kidding?” she asked. “You recognized this?”
“The Kreb’s Cycle is tattooed on my arm,” the girl said, seriously. She pointed to the sleeve of her white cotton shirt where the dark shadow of a tattoo was visible just under the surface.
Tracy looked at it, and also noticed that the shirt was buttoned up incorrectly, one side of the collar higher than the other. It looked sort of cute that way.
“I got it in graduate school, on a dare.”
“You got tattooed on a dare?” Tracey asked, thinking that was a pretty lame story.
“No,” the girl said. “The dare was that I draw it from memory for the tattoo artist, and that’s why there’s a mistake in it. I left off one of the first three NAD+ molecules. What can I say? It was late and I was hopped up on Mr. Pibb.”
Tracey laughed and snorted into her hot chocolate, causing her glasses to fog up. Embarrassed, she pulled them off and began wiping them on her t-shirt.
“Hey, don’t do that,” the girl said. “That’s really hard on your lenses.”
“It’s okay,” Tracey said, holding them up to the light, where they looked battered and cloudy. “They’ve been through the washing machine a couple of times.”
The girl glanced down at her Snoopy watch.
“I should get going soon. I’d promised someone I’d play a quick game of chess today.”
“Is there really such a thing?”
“There is when I’m playing.”
Tracey sucked in her breath, startled at how suggestive the girl had made that sound. Again she felt her face get red, and her chest tighten. Suddenly she stood and bolted for the restroom, locking the door behind her and digging in her pants pocket for her inhaler.
She coughed a few times, feeling her breathing slow even as her heart quickened from the epinephrine. She bent over the sink and splashed some water on her face, then dried it quickly and headed back to the table.
“Wow. Are you okay?” the girl asked. “You left at warp speed. I didn’t want to leave your stuff just lying here. And why are your bangs all wet?”
“I had a moment,” Tracey said. “I think I’d better get going.”
“Wait,” the girl said. “I’ve got an idea.” She put her hand on Tracey’s arm.
Tracey looked down at the girl’s big, silver Superman ring. Suddenly she pictured just where the ring would hit her if the girl’s fingers were buried deep inside her hot, wet… She felt the crotch of her Oscar the Grouch UnderRoos begin to dampen with the thought.
“Hey,” the girl said. “Don’t look so worried. I was just hoping I could get your number and text you sometime. Maybe we could get together and chew wintergreen Lifesavers in the dark, or something like that.”
Tracey suddenly knew what she’d give to be locked in a dark closet with this girl.
“Okay,” she said. She reached out and wrote her number, in orange Sharpie, on the back of the girl’s hand.
The girl took the Sharpie.
“Here’s mine,” she said. “I’m Sam. Sam I am.”
She wrote her number on Tracey’s pad of graph paper, along with some words and two lines of numbers. She recognized them as quadratic equations.
Tracey watched her leave the coffee shop. She read the note the girl had left. It was short. “I’d like to see you,” Tracey thought it said. The handwriting was angular and messy. No, it said “I’d like to see your…”
“Your what?” Tracey puzzled.
Then she took the cover off her graphing calculator. She entered \y= and the first equation, then moved to the next line and entered the second before commanding the calculator to graph the results: the little screen traced out two parabolas, each opening upward, intersecting at the origin. Tracy peered into the screen. They looked, for all the world, like… breasts.
“Shazam!” she said, and finished her cocoa.