By Albert Chen

Written October 22, 2002


Hello, I'm surprised to see you here.

Well, I had a hell of a time finding you.

I'm flattered; archery ranges are few and far between these days. So, how did you find me?

I tried your phone, but I got your voicemail on the first ring and figured it was off, so I called your office and asked your secretary.

Associate Manager.

Whatever. Everybody else goes golfing, but you shoot archery?

I like the solitude.

That's nice. Am I bothering you?

No, the nice thing about archery is that you have to learn to focus through everything to shoot well. I can shoot and talk to you at the same time. – It’s fantastic to see you again.

I had hoped you would call me today.

I was going to, after shooting. Do you have time for lunch in fifteen?

I came out to ask you the same. Do you shoot long?

I used to shoot for hours upon end until an old guy at the range asked me whether any of the shots I was shooting was worth anything by the end. When I told him "no," he told me to shoot thirty perfect shots a day and leave it at that for practice. I tried it, and after a couple of days asked him to be my coach.

How many have you shot so far?

About twenty. Did I tell you that you looked fantastic last night?

Thank you; so did you. What are you shooting at?

See those bales of hay down there?

You're kidding right? That must be a hundred yards away!

That's about right. We shoot 90 meters in competition.

I can barely see the target from here. How big is the bulls-eye?

About four inches, it's kind of a Zen thing. You just point the sight at the target and shoot. If you can shoot the bulls-eye at 20 meters, then 90 is the same thing as long as you point the sight at the target. Here look through the spotting scope.

I didn't see it land.

Wait for the sound.

Wow, you hit the bulls-eye! It's so weird, the delay between your firing and the arrow hitting the target. You never think about that.

It's not like a gun, the arrow only flies so fast and it takes a while for it to hit the target.

Shoot another.

All right.

I can't believe it. That is so cool.

I agree; on the range, everything else disappears. It's quiet inside as well as outside. You clear your mind; you clear your heart and let the arrows hit the bulls-eye. Very cool indeed.

Wow, how do you stay focused?

Like I said, it's a Zen thing. If you don't commit yourself completely, for the three seconds that you are shooting, then you get sloppy and can't shoot well.

I like the intensity, in that way, it’s like golf on the tee.

A lot of archers pick up golf to practice the mental game. It's the same, you chat when you are getting ready, but when you are on the line, you are ice. You have to be.

You must be a better golfer than I am; I like to chat even when I am on the tee.

My first international tournament, I shot the scoreboard on accident because I had the jitters and someone screamed something in the bleachers when I was at full draw.

You're kidding, right?

Not at all, sparks flew everywhere. The very next day, I hired a sports psychologist in addition to my coach to help me through the problem. She put a boom box in back of my head while I shot to teach me to focus through distractions.

So you are pretty good then?

I'm getting better.

You are so serious when you are shooting. Can I distract you?

Like having a beautiful woman asking questions while I shoot isn't distraction enough.

That's sweet, but I'm serious, do you think you can still shoot if I distract you?

I think so.

You seem sure of yourself.

I am.

Then I can try to distract you?

Sure, just don't get too close; I don't want you hurt.

Okay, what if I stand over here and yell for a while.

Yell away, I can shoot through that.

What I tell you that you are getting hungry?

You'd be right, but I can shoot through that.

What if I tell you that I think this whole intensity/archery stuff is really sexy.

I'd tell you that I agree with that and that I can shoot through that.

What if I whisper into your ear?

You are too close, and I can tell you it feels good, but I can shoot through that.

What if I tell you this is turning me on?

I'd tell you that you have very kissable lips, and I can shoot through that.

What if I tell you that you have a really cute ass?

I'd tell you that you do too and I could still shoot through that.

What if I told you I am taking my shirt off so that you can touch me here in the park? … Just kidding, but you missed.

* * *

I've never eaten here before. To think, I walk by here every day and have never noticed it.

It's one of my favorite restaurants.

Yeah? What makes it so good?

The company.

Really, then this must be one of my favorites too.

My, you are silver with the tongue.

Does it bother you?

Not really.

So what's good here?


What have you had?

A bit of everything really. They are famous for dim sum in the mornings.

I didn’t know they served dim sum so late.

They don’t really, after 3:00 they switch to northern style small dishes.

Like what?

Like cucumbers in garlic and hot, spicy oil, meat pastries, juicy little buns, little dishes from regional areas. It’s like Chinese tapas.

I thought dim sum was like Chinese tapas.

I guess dim sum is more like a mobile buffet, while the northern style small dishes you order at the outset.

So, what are we having?

Ironically, none of those; I mean, we are going to order a few small dishes, but this place is also renown for their beef noodles.

The thick kind with the dark soup?

Yes, they make their own noodles here and they braise the beef for hours. It almost falls apart in the soup, but it still has texture. Its really good here; this is a branch from the one in Taiwan ... you want me to order?

Sure, but can we order a tripe in hot sauce too? And maybe some pig ears.

I’m glad we are on the same wavelength.

* * *

Have you ever had the “ephemeral crush?”

I am not sure I understand. Explain.

You know, the kind where you might see the person once or twice and never see them again, but you think about them for a long time after?

Are you talking about one-night stands?

No, nothing that shallow, or maybe more shallow, I don’t really know. It’s not that torrid.

No sex, but memorable.

Hauntingly memorable, yes! The people seem unreal, yet they pop into your life with alacrity then never show up again.

Do kisses count?

I guess … I am thinking of run-ins that make you go back to the place again and again hoping you might meet them again.

You obviously have something in mind. Tell me about it.

Tell me about the kiss first, that sounds more interesting.

It’s not that interesting; I was seventeen.


She was ghostly, like you said, ephemeral, haunting. Hang on the food is here.

* * *

Mmm, this is good.

You said it.

They really have it down. The little globules of oil on the top make it seem especially decadent.

I like coming here at least once a week. Chinese comfort food.

Like meat loaf?

Like meat loaf.

I can get into that.

So, you were going to tell me about the ephemeral kiss.

Hmm? Oh yes, the ephemeral kiss… where was I?

Nowhere yet, you were seventeen.

Oh yeah, well you see, I was shooting at an archery range in Orange County.


California, though there is one in New York as well.

So tell me about it.

There is not much to tell, I was shooting archery and met this girl and kissed her. It was a memorable experience though.

That’s it? That’s the best you can do? You are supposed to be a writer!

Okay, okay, what do you want?

A story, tell me the story.

All right. Let me grab this dumpling first.

* * *

The breeze rippled along the tall grasses and knocked dandelion fluff and pollen into the air. Sunlight stretched and basked my upturned face in its warmth. And somewhere, the smell of hickory charcoal brought memories of picnics at the park to the mind.

The archery range was deserted, and the emptiness brought a serenity to the unkempt field. The grass grew, in some places, to my knee; and in others, wildflowers bloomed rampant and uncontrolled. At the far end of the field, the bales of hay sagged in their frames reminding me of tired old men. I looked atop the burn that surrounded the field, and saw the chain-link fence that had been erected to keep spectators at a distance.

As I began, only a bird rising in the thermals above me, and the air, heavy with quiet, kept me company.

I fitted an arrow to my string and set the bow against my knee. I lowered my head first to collect my thoughts, and then to clear my mind. I placed my hand to the string of the bow, inhaled, then exhaled and sent an arrow racing to the target. I stood motionless letting the sound of the arrow hitting paper resound in the empty range before lowering the bow.

The sound of arrow hitting paper is like no other sound in the world. There is a cleanliness and quality to the sound that is at once satisfying and pure. Many archers describe the sound of their bowstrings and the sharpness of the shot, but it is the sound of arrow to paper that brings me back and again to the range.

I exhaled two more times and listened to the shafts strike the paper. Then, I set my bow down and walked to the target. My arrows had missed the bulls-eye and clustered in a small triangle inches above the center circle, I let myself remember how it felt to shoot such a group, and once remembering, I drew my arrows from the hay and walked back to my bow.

I continued to shoot for some time before noticing a figure watching me from the chain-link fence atop the burn. How long she was there I cannot say, but she stood there, her hands clutching the fence above her head staring intently.

As I prepared to shoot again, I looked over and watched sun and breeze ripple in her hair. She wore a light sundress that billowed in concert with her hair, and looked like she would be more comfortable running carefree through my field than standing at the fence.

I fitted an arrow to my string and grasped my bow. In the corner of my eye I could see her press against the fence in anticipation. I touched my hand to the string and sent an arrow to its mark. I looked over to the girl and watched as she pulled away from the fence as if stretching her arms. I fitted another arrow to the string and watched as she again pressed her body to the fence. The cloth of her dress was trapped between the fence and her body. I pushed her from my mind and sent the next two arrows cracking into the paper. I ignored her as I retrieved my arrows but walking back, it was all I could do to watch her watch me.

The next arrows flew erratic and I had to make exceptional effort to drive her from my mind and bring my shooting under control. And yet, as I shot, I could not help but to sneak a glance here and there and look at her. Finally, I had to put my bow down and turn to face her.

From the distance I shrugged to her with open hands as if to say "hello", and "why are you watching me", and "who are you", and "I think you are beautiful" and everything else that was racing through my mind.

She must have taken pity upon my confusion because she smiled at me and filled me with the sunshine that, till then, had only been beating upon my brow. She looked back to the target, closed her eyes and listened as I sent three arrows unerringly to the target.

I was caught between hopeless distraction and the supreme knowledge that while she watched me, I could not miss. I felt suffused with desire and consumed in possibility. And yet a part of me, perhaps the fearful part of me, was content to simply have her watch me shoot.

I felt the fatigue in my shoulder first, a feeling of weakness that threw an arrow completely off the mark. The next arrow was on target, but the struggle required focus. I resolved to put the girl from my mind and make the shot, but felt my muscles buckle. I had to let the bow down without releasing the arrow.

One more shot, I thought, but as I drew, I felt my muscles fail. Self-consciously I looked at the girl at the fence who looked back expectantly. I closed my eyes and visualized the shot then willed my muscles to draw the bow one last time. I tried to take aim, but my arms were shaking and I could not still the point of the arrow. I felt my arms once again begin to collapse, pulled through the clicker and fired wildly.

Instead of the familiar sound of hitting paper, I heard metal strike metal

For the most part, archery is a relatively inexpensive sport. Unlike rifling or pistoling, arrows are usually reusable. The only time you need to replace arrows are if you lose them, damage them or they wear out.

The only time you damage them are when you are just starting out – when you shoot the frame of the target, or when you are really, really good – when arrows knock against each other and dent one another. The only other time you damage an arrow takes extreme skill, or extreme luck. This was the latter of the two.

It’s called a "robin hood," after the story of Robin Hood splitting the arrow at the tournament in Nottingham. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a skill that allows people to shoot “robin hoods,” it is almost always pure luck, kind of like a hole-in-one in golf. But it must not have seemed that way to the girl. Miraculously, on my last shot, I had shot another arrow.

I pointed to the arrow in amazement, and then broke into a grin.

She pressed against the chain-link and grinned in return. She pressed her face to the fence and with a finger beckoned for me to come closer.

I walked across the field to the fence and stopped a few feet from her.

She motioned for me to come even closer, and, her fingers still entwined on the fence, leaned away pulling the fence as she arched her back. Sunlight streamed through her hair.

I touched the fence and came up to the cool metal.

“Hi,” I said. She didn’t look older than fourteen or fifteen.

With a rush, she pushed back into the fence and kissed me on the lips with perfect accuracy through the chain-link.

I was blown away and fell to my butt on the ground in astonishment. By the time I recovered, I was just able to see her scamper away to the picnic area.

I pulled my wits about me and ran to the entry of the chain-link fence around the archery range. In retrospect, I should have just climbed the fence since it was a long run around the fence.

By the time I made it out to the picnic area, she was gone. The area was deserted, not a picnicker to be seen. It was as if she vanished into thin air.

* * *

Now, did that really happen?

What do you mean, “Did that really happen?” You asked me to tell you the story of the ephemeral kiss, and there you are.

It just seems so ... well, story-like.

I am a writer you know.

So I am told.

Okay, so I told you mine, tell me yours.

It’s not as romantic as yours.

It was obviously on your mind or you wouldn’t have brought it up.

Granted, but it’s stupid after hearing your story.

Let me be the judge of that.

Okay. If the waitress comes by though, make sure we get more tea okay?


This happened a while ago.

* * *

I remember the first time I saw him. He was impeccably dressed and walking along the top of a five-foot wall. He held his briefcase in one hand and a bagel in the other; he would have looked like a six-year-old kid playing in the financial district, except that he was just walking, as if he were on the sidewalk with everyone else. Some of the people he passed looked at him with bemusement; others looked at him with annoyance. I remember thinking that I wanted to be him. He walked in his own thoughts, and seemed content with the entire world around him.

I watched him for a while, five seconds at least, before hurrying into the coffee house for my pre-work cup of coffee. Just before entering the shop though, I looked back and caught him staring at me. I quickly looked away.

The next day, I found him again walking on the wall. And again, I caught him looking at me as I made my way to work; each time I would look back from the coffee shop and each time he would look away as if he had not seen me.

On the third day, while I was walking parallel to him, he unexpectedly hopped down the full five feet and stopped me.

“Hello,” he said, looking terribly serious.

“Hello,” I replied.

He seemed unsure what to say next, and the pause between the greeting and his next sentence seemed just a fraction of a second too long.

“I see you on the way to work in the morning,” he said finally.

“I noticed,” I said, and smiled at him.

He broke into a grin, as if that broke the ice for him.

“My name is Johnny,” he said, extending his hand.

I shook it and gave him my name. Then there was another pause, again a little too long.

“Well, I just wanted to say 'hello'.”


“Hello…” he said again and laughed. When he laughed, Johnny’s eyes lit up like birthday candles. “Maybe I’ll see you again.”

“Maybe,” I replied.

He took my hand and shook it again and then turned to supernaturally leap back to the top of his wall.

“I’ll see you tomorrow!” he called as he ran along the remaining length of the wall and around the corner. He looked like a six-year-old after all. I waved back and smiled all the way around the office.

* * *


What do you mean, “And?”

That’s it? That wasn’t ghostly or haunting. I am not even sure that qualifies as ephemeral.

What do you mean?

I mean something can still happen, do you still see him on the way to work? Didn’t you see him the next day? I mean, how does this count as an “ephemeral crush”? In my story we never even talked. At least, she never talked.

That’s just it. I never did see him again. I expected to, I even waited at the wall for him to come, but he vanished like your girl did, without a trace.

When did this happen?

Almost a year ago now.

And it bothers you still.

No. Well, yes, it sticks in my mind. I wonder a lot what happened, if anything happened to him and what might have happened.

Sounds like you still have the crush.

This is getting too serious.

No really, let’s keep with this for a moment.

I should never have brought it up. This was supposed to be a nice lunch for the two of us.

It is nice, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a relatively deep conversation. I find you no less attractive.


Really. Can I help it if you are crazy too?


I’m kidding, I’m kidding, just yanking your chain. Seriously though, this seems to have affected you significantly.

Your archery girl didn’t?

Sure it did, but that was a long time ago. I was seventeen at the time.

And she was fourteen. Kinda young, don’t you think?

It was spontaneous, I didn’t kiss her; she kissed me! It’s not like I have a thing for young girls you know.

I know; I’m just yanking your chain.

Touché. Anyway, I have a thing for women who are willing to track me down to an archery range, ask me to lunch, and bare their tops on said range just to distract me.

I did not bare my top.

Ah yes, but in my mind’s eye you did.


Me, pervert? You were the one who put the visual in my head.


It is a good visual.

Maybe I’ll do it for real next time.

I’d like that.

Would you?

Yes, I think I would. Seriously though, getting back on track, you should find out what happened to this “Johnny”. If not to figure out things out, then to set your mind at ease.

It’s just a crush.

An “ephemeral” crush.


A year-long “ephemeral” crush.


It’s healthy to go figure this out. Put your mind at ease. Anything that follows you for a year like this needs closure of some kind.

Not everything gets closure.

True, but there are things that want it.

Things like year-long “ephemeral” crushes?

Things like those.

What about us?

There is time for us later. I’m not worried; we have too much chemistry going.

That’s presumptuous.

Is it? Or am I just skewed?

You’re not skewed.

I’m not going anywhere – figuratively that is. I am going to my parents’ house this weekend; I’ll be back on Monday. What I mean is that I will be here for you.

Where do I start?

What do you remember?

Just the suit, the briefcase, and the bagel.

Start with the bagel and ask around. I can’t imagine that people did not notice a guy walking on walls. How much of the bagel did he finish the first time you saw him?

He had just started on it I think.

Did he have a bag or just a napkin?

Just the bagel.

Then look nearby for a bagel place and ask around. You are sure to find something.

And if I don’t?

Then you can at least say you tried. You said not everything has closure, perhaps not in the Hollywood or therapy sense, but sometimes closure is just knowing you tried.

I’m scared.


I am not sure what is going to happen.

It’s okay. Just let things happen. I’ll call you this weekend to see how things went. Call my cell phone if you need anything or just want to talk.

The tea is cold.

Let me pour you some more.

It’s okay. I guess we should go.

Sure, I’ll get the check. Eat the last dumpling.

I can’t.

Too full?

No, too empty.

* * *


Hi. How are you?

I’m good.

You sound quiet.

I am. You sound quiet too.

I am. Did you find out anything?

No. And yes.

What did you find out?

That no one really knows what happened.

They remember him though?

Yes, like you said, it was hard not to notice him, but they said he just stopped coming. They didn’t know what happened to him either.

Where did you go from there?

I was going to go to the police next, but instead I went to the wall in the financial district; it was quiet there on the weekend; desolate solitude, you know? The black marble was cool to the touch, quiet, like a memorial and there was peace there – you know?

I do.

What did you do this weekend; did you see your parents?

Yes, I did.

Are you okay?

Yes, I am.

What’s wrong? You are so quiet.

I’m glad you found some closure for your crush.

I am too.

I went to the archery range near my parent’s house.

You did? Where you met the girl?


Did something happen?

No, it was quiet there too. The grass was overgrown, the hay bales had fallen over; the fence sagged where she had stood. I felt old.

I’m sorry.

Don’t be, I didn’t feel old and tired, just old, or rather grown up. Our conversation about “Johnny” made me wonder about the girl at the archery range, so I went - not that I expected to find anything.

Did you?

Did I what?

Find anything?

Actually, I did.

Closure is not always a Hollywood thing, is it?

No, but this is life.


I’ll see you Monday?

Of course.

Take care of yourself.

You take care too.