The week after I graduated from high school I started hanging out with a girl named Madeleine. She was my friend’s girlfriend’s twin sister. I liked her immediately. I had never met anyone like her before. It was easy being around Madeleine. She was so smart and so funny. She was sweet to me during a time when hardly anyone else was.
She had spent a year in Syracuse for school but had recently returned to Virginia because it made her sad to be up there, and to be alive at all.
I used to go to Old Town Manassas and visit her at the little gift shop where she worked. I remember stopping in one day and asking her if she liked to walk around at night. She said she did. I told her I went out after midnight—after the moon was way up in the sky. I invited her to come with me and she said yes.
That night we drove to the street where I grew up and parked by a cornfield. We walked all the way down Old Church Road till we got to the stop sign by Bristow Road.
I had a big black marker with me for some reason. I handed it to Madeleine.
“What do you wish you could stop more than anything else?” she said.
“Time,” I said.
“Yeah,” she said. “Me too.”
She walked over to the sign and I followed. I bent down and she stepped on my knee to reach it. With the marker in her hand she wrote down the thing we both wished we could stop more than anything else.