Jamal had a way of hearing what was not said. He met this co-ed one January night that held no other promise. He wasn’t all that attracted to her, but when they were going through the act of saying good-night she left the car door open and he jumped in. He woke up next to her in Syracuse.

It’s not that it felt bad, it’s that it didn’t feel right, like drinking egg nog in July. 

She made him coffee and toast and then helped him make a sign that said “Ithaca.” She drove him to a good place for hitching a ride. 

His morning cheerlessness put a challenge on her. When he couldn’t smile on demand she said, “I smile for you.” Then she left him by the side of the road.

What he heard, though, was, “Ice mile for you.” It foretold, he was sure, a long cold way to go.

(You can share.)