Darien is standing just outside in his sweats when I go out. He’s shuffling between his feet to stay warm.
He asks me how I’m doing.
I answer him automatically, “I’m good.” I hear my answer at the same time that he does and realize it may not be honest. “What are you up to?” I ask him.
“I’m waiting for some friends. I don’t have a doorbell, so this is how I have to do it.”
His phone number could easily be programmed into the front entrance intercom — he’d just have to look up who’s job that is. But I don’t point that out because I’ve already mentioned it to him a couple of times.
He asks about my Thanksgiving and I roll the answer around in my head a few times before giving it. I reframe it to avoid allusions to things that weren’t Thanksgiving that might betray the good charade. I settle on, “I had dinner with friends.”
“So the usual,” he says, “Just at a different place.”
I ask him, “What did you do for Thanksgiving?” and his answer flashes into my head before he gives it.
“I went to my Grandma’s.”
When there’s a quiet patch in the conversation, I tell him that I’m heading off.
“Alright.” He holds out his hand for a buddy handshake — a cross between a handshake and a high five. I swing my hand out and reach for his, and I give him a little more shake and a little less five than he’s expecting. He adjusts his clasp to compensate. I turn away from the handshake and walk into the street. A car is coming around the traffic circle, so I dodge quick to the other side to beat it.