When Franny was a girl, she idolized her older brother. He was cool, that elusive state of being she felt completely unable to achieve. First, cool was reserved for boys, an unspoken rule that girls could be mean, sweet, popular, unpopular, pretty, or ugly, but only boys could truly be cool.
Second, cool dwelt in an undefined future, a time when she’d be “older” herself. There was no road map to this future, and no indication of how much “older” she needed to be.
And third, despite reading dictionaries and just about everything else in the library, Franny could not locate a satisfying definition of cool. It was ephemeral, only applied in context, one of those “you’ll know it when you see it” concepts.
So she watched her older brother and his friends, and knew they were cool, because she could see it. She saw how they dressed as if they cared nothing for the impression they made, how they laughed at jokes she did not quite understand, and how they cared for one another deeply, but expressed that care mostly through insults.
One of those friends seemed just a touch less cool than the rest. Franny noticed him, and when her brother and his friends were around, she watched him. His smile was quicker, his eyes were twinklier, and his sense of humor was more understandable.
A lifetime later, that friend of her older brother’s kissed her in front of her apartment building, and Franny kissed him back.
Am I finally cool? the thought drifted through her mind, pushed by the wind.