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  • “Oh, I was so young,” he scoffed. Two skinny teens emerging from an alcove of trees and brush, a couple, but with enough distance between them to make me suspect they were plucking a tulip poplar blossom rather than making out. I kept walking the trail they were reentering, a mile loop through state park woods, smiling to myself. What had she asked about—had he skipped class in his greener years, tried psilocybin mushrooms brought to mind by their off-the-path jaunt?

    I had only just stopped grinning, thinking how quick we are to throw our outgrown selves under the bus, when I passed them again. I got a better look this time. They were holding hands now. He was a good seventeen inches taller than her and with posture that made me realize he could be a soldier, though he didn’t look old enough. We live near an Army Fort. Hundreds of men and women are in continual route to or from Afghanistan. They call it a tour. Perhaps his first.

    The difference in the face is slight unless you juxtapose before and after photos. Then the toll is quite clear.

    Her eyes though—bright with pride and happiness—surprised me with the steadiness of years. She must have been in her mid thirties, not the teenager I took her petite body for. She held my gaze as I passed, her junior or senior I’m not sure. She was in love. The kind that shines with hope and outmans fear.

    I only caught a strand of their conversation over my shoulder, his reference to a friend’s behavior as “presumptuous.”

    “Presumptuous!” she repeated, lifting her voice to flip end over end like a lucky penny his silver dollar word—the day’s evidence that whatever they might have between them could be enough.
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