Space and Time, the Four Dimensions by Garnett Kilberg Cohen




I will call the high school band the Four Dimensions, not their real name but there were four members. Launched in the era of the Beach Boys and the Beatles, they more resembled the Beach Boys. They wore short-sleeved shirts, maybe madras, trimmed in white, with three little buttons climbing Henley collars. The tallest, Bean (again, not a real name), stood over six feet; his white-blond hair crested above his eyebrows like an extended wave formed perfectly for a miniature surfer. The band evoked sand and beaches and bikinis. Yet our high school—across the street from my house—stood nowhere near a beach. Our little village was a hub surrounded by farms in northeast Ohio. Still, when I was in middle school and Bean was an upperclassman, he seemed as inaccessible as a Beatle or Beach Boy.

On a warm fall evening, my friend K and I slept on a porch-like roof off an upstairs bedroom, watching the street below. Down the path from a high school dance walked Bean and his girlfriend, S. As short as he was tall, S had a pretty bull dog face—big eyes and broad cheeks that promised to someday droop into jowls. We watched in awe as they stopped under the streetlight and Bean swooped down to give her a lingering kiss.




A dozen years later, I am a divorced mother, still living in the same town, working and attending nearby Kent State. Bean is still there too. The five or six years between us doesn’t feel so great now. One night we are in the same pub—the only one in the town, a place where the college kids congregate when home for break, where the townies go on weekends. That night the place is packed. Bean and I find ourselves seated side by side up at the bar, talking, laughing, eating nuts. His eyes give off little sparks of light. He never stops smiling. A nut in his lips, he leans forward and feeds it to me with his mouth. I am surprised but feed him one in return. This game continues, the transfers become kisses that grow longer each time. At some point we are only kissing, no longer trading nuts. K and I would have thought this impossible—nothing short of a miracle—from our vantage point on the roof.

After last call I ask my friend E if I looked slutty. No, she says, you two looked very cute.





I marry two more times. I move from state to state four times. North to Michigan. Back to Ohio. East to Pennsylvania. West to Chicago, where I am now.




Unlike the three dimensions of space, time moves in only one direction: forward. Somewhere around forty years after the pub night, Bean’s high school class holds a reunion. I see photos and a video on Facebook. The Four Dimensions perform. An old man, not Bean, sings—in a craggy voice—of girls with long silky hair. Bean appears in a photo with three men gathered around a plaque they are awarded. The other men look old, white hair and pink faces. Bean does not. His hair has turned sandy but is all there. His eyes still contain light. I download the photo and e-mail it to K. I ask her if she remembers Bean and S kissing under the streetlight. She writes back that it is the first thing she thought about upon seeing the photo.

I think of that night and the glow of the streetlight.

I’ve heard the high school wing that faced our house is marked for demolition. Between our house and the long school yard sat the crumbling remains of a hitching post, an old pebbly cement bar with three holes for posts. I wonder if it is still there. I wonder if Bean recalls that night in the pub. I did not see him again after that night though I think he once—shortly afterwards—came to my house, the place I shared with my son and another woman, a friend also going to Kent State. It was very late at night and I was sleeping. He stood in my yard throwing pebbles at my upstairs window. But that might have been a dream.

Garnett Kilberg Cohen has published three books of short fiction, most recently Swarm to Glory (2014), and a poetry chapbook. Her nonfiction has appeared in Brevity, The Rumpus, Witness, The Antioch Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Black Warrior Review, and others. Both her fiction and nonfiction have won many awards, including two Notable Essay Citations from Best American Essays (2011 and 2015), a Special Mention from the Pushcart Prize, the Lawrence Foundation Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review, an Illinois Artist’s Fellowship and the Crazyhorse National Fiction Prize. A professor at Columbia College Chicago, she was the guest Nonfiction Editor of of Fifth Wednesday for two issues and is the current co-editor of Punctuate, a nonfiction magazine.