He first saw her across a smoke-filled dorm room. She danced (swayed) to Eric Clapton. They all swayed since there was no room to dance in a 12×12 double. Who the hell could dance to Eric Clapton, anyway? That smooth urbane angry broken-hearted Slow-hand. “Going through your whole life miserable. That’s no good,” thought JJ.
“Do you like her,” Brent yelled in JJ’s ear.
“Who is she?”
“Lila. My sister.”
“What the hell is she doing here?”
“She’s checking up on me,” Brent said. Then he fell away into the crush. Brent was alright. Kind of lost, smoked too much weed, missed a lot of classes. But ok. His sister, if she was his sister, was dancing to Cocaine with her arms above her head, her shirt hiked up a bit, showing some creamy skin and the hint of pink underwear peeking above her jeans. JJ’s stomach did a little leap. The glimpses, that was the thing. Tantalizing. He started burrowing into the crowd, towards her.
“Brent says you’re his sister.”
“Who wants to know?”
“I’m JJ,” he said and put out his hand.
Lila looked at it as if he were offering a trout. “Let’s dance,” she said and put her arms around his neck.
“Do people still do that?”
“I do,” she said and they swayed and sweated and tried to dance to Steve Miller and the Stones.
Later, in the quiet of the stairwell. “So, why are you here?”
“To check up on Brent,” she said. “He’s kind of fucked up.”
“We know. But we love him.”
“Oh, he’s lovable all right. But that won’t last.”
They sat on the stairs, smoking Marlboros, the rumble of weekend parties and the occasional echoing cackle or shout from the floors above.
“So, you’re some kind of guardian angel? You take care of people?”
“I worry. I want to help,” she said and drew on the cigarette. “We all need to help each other.”
“So, you’re a hippy.”
“Besides, I like to meet new people.”
“I’m new,” he said. “And I need help.”
She smiled. “Not now, you don’t. Maybe some day.”
JJ took a half pint of Jim Beam from his pocket and took a hit. “You want some.”
She took it and had her own little swig. “Fire water,” she said.
“More like dirt water,” he said. He put it back into his back pocket shifting awkwardly forward. As he did so, Lila put her hand on the back of his head, fingers twining into his hair. He turned and reached for her and they kissed, all Jim Beam fumes and the excitement of new lips and a whole new thing.
And, that’s how it began.