Register Monday | June 24 | 2019

Looking Out for Number Two

Winner of Maisonneuve's "Sunshine on Your Shoulders" literary contest

Emily has dropped to second place in the list of popular baby names. She came into the Internet café to google herself. She has plenty of time, it’s pooling inside her; plus the guy one screen over is cute. He looks familiar. She wonders what number he comes in at, whether he’s winning or losing the other race. When he leaves, she follows at a safe distance, checks both ways before crossing the street. Three blocks later, she falls in love with his back, the drape of white T-shirt over his shoulders. She imagines a lifetime of this, gumshoeing around corners, chasing down a name, a face to match. At the street light, the guy flips a coin into a busker’s case, lights a cigarette. Emily crouches on one knee, goes through the motions of untying and retying. She remembers junior high, her first real crush. What would seven years have done to him? What will the next seven do to her? If only the course of true love was beyond proof. At some point in the story, every private eye has to present her case. The guy starts forward, pauses beside the black gates of Philosopher’s Walk, and Emily picks up her pace. Too late. He turns and steps into nothingness. Reaching the archway, she’s lost him among the milling students. O number two—“Michael!” she yells. Like automatons all the boys in the vicinity swivel their heads.