The last time I saw him was outside the local diner in our hometown. LakeWay was the local eatery for the high school kids during their off-campus periods. It was a farewell, not the final kind, but for an indefinite period of time. He was going off to college and I was staying in our hometown. I was a grade below him, but he was my friend. I loved him.
It's ironic that when he calls out my name we're in front of this new town's local hotspot.
"Dennie! Dennie, hey, why are you in Dallas?" Mark goes to hug me but his hand is attached to a little boy. I'm still about a foot away, but it was nice to see the effort for old times' sake.
"Well, I'm here on assignment. I needed industry in my portfolio. Dallas is the most industrious place in my home state and since I have a short break from school I came here to build up my industry." I smile a little bit before glancing at the little boy hanging from Mark's hand. He can't be more than five.
"And who are you, you handsome devil?" I crouch down so I'm eye level with him. He tucks himself closer to Mark's leg but maintains eye contact with me. He's got the death-stare of a five year old.
"Parker," the little one blurts.
"I'm pleased to meet you Parker." I stand back up so I'm as close to eye level as I've ever been with Mark.
"You want to get a bite to eat?" Mark asks. I notice Parker toss his head back and glare at Mark.
"Parker has some place to be, I better not." I smile. Mark looks down at Parker and notices the look he's receiving. He presses his lips together in an expression I never saw in high school.
"I guess so. I'll give you my number and you can call if you change your mind." He passes over a business card so very Mark-like that I chuckle while he puts the wallet he withdrew back into his pocket. "You look good Dennie, Tennessee was good for you."
I nod my head, "Thanks. You look good too, except I have no idea how it happened."
Mark laughs out loud, shaking his head. "Well, I feel better now. Tennessee hasn't changed you at all."
"You have no idea," I reply. "I'll talk to you later. It was nice meeting you, Parker."
I'm the first to leave the scene of the crime. I'd recognize that voice in my sleep. Seeing Mark here soothed my nerves after the calamity of telling my parents I was staying in Dallas for my break instead of going home. If I hadn't called and told them I had a break they never would've known. But no, I had told my sister, who made me tell my mom.
I held up my camera to see through the viewfinder an antique building. I'd been doing this since eight in the morning; I feared I'd upload the pictures and not see 2015 architecture. Instead, I'd gaze longingly at the buildings made of things other than metal. Buildings from another generation entirely.
I'd browse through the photos once turning the ones that needed to be flipped on a 90 degree angle, deleting the ones that got blurred in the wrong spots, and weeding out my least favorites. The next spin I'd just look. I was always amazed before I went to Watkins that I'd photograph something in a certain way to attain a certain perspective and surprise myself by highlighting something new.
On the final spin I would move the best ones, not always my favorites, into my portfolio folder to be printed and matted for display in my giant portfolio briefcase.
I walked on to the next street. I thought about calling Mark to use him as my model for some of the taller buildings, but since I told him I couldn't get something to eat I doubt he'd be feeling up to standing around all day. Plus, having people stare at me while I'm trying to stare through them always felt awkward to me. Go figure.
Mark was on the fringes of high school society. The thing I remembered most was how he was always just taller than me. I could wear platform shoes and Mark would still be just taller than me.
A part of me wanted, almost to the point of desperation, to text Mark to ask if Parker was his. As in his son. My hands started to shake as I raised the camera again. Mark had this unwanted ability to raise my heart from the dead and seeing him with a son was likely to kill it. Even though, technically, my heart was currently in Keiran's possession.
I popped all my knuckles, starting with my index finger and ending with my thumbs. The sound always made clearing my head that much easier. I went the rest of the day without calling Mark. I called Keiran twice. I barely even thought of Mark. Admittedly, I thought about Parker. He had Mark's hair, but not his personality.
I stayed out until four when the sun started beaming down like a room furnace with the doors closed.
I went back to my hotel room and just flung myself on the bed. I frequently did this in high school. Boys, yearbook, academics, boys, just really seemed to drag me down and flinging myself like a Frisbee on to a bed seemed like the best solution. Old habits die hard. Old fault lines still crack.