I jumped, dropping my notebook.
“You crossed at Ashland, didn’t you? That light takes forever to change.”
“What…?” I stammered. “How did you…?”
“You’re a creature of habit. No matter what goes on, you always come here.”
“Well…yes, “I admitted. “But…how did you know about this place?”
“It’s not exactly Area 51, is it?”
“Were you following me?”
The boy genius grinned.
“I suppose you could say that, but there’s nothing nefarious in my intentions, I assure you.” He gestured to the bench. “May I sit down?”
“Why?” I asked, reaching down for my notebook. “Did you think of more ways to insult me?”
The boy threw up his hands.
“Truce. No more insults.”
I wasn’t fully convinced of his sincerity but I made a curt nod toward the empty spot on the bench.
“Look,” he continued, taking a seat next to me. “I know I have the reputation of being a bit…unpleasant, particularly to reporters.”
“‘A bit unpleasant?’” I retorted. “You’re too modest. You thoroughly underestimate your ability to be an obnoxious jerk.”
The boy was silent for a moment, mulling over my words.
“I suppose I deserved that,” he finally said, “but there is a reason for the way I behave.”
“You’re socially maladjusted?” I suggested.
Boy genius let out an exasperated sigh.
“Are you finished?”
“No, but don’t let me stop you. Please continue.”
“You’re too kind. Anyway, you may not have realized it, but I was rather impressed with you earlier.”
“Were you now?” I replied dryly.
“You stood up for yourself back at the coffee shop. Usually, when I give reporters a hard time, they just take it because they’re desperate to get their story.”
“Maybe they’re more ambitious than I am.”
“Ambition is all well and good,” the boy replied as he idly swung his short legs back and forth, “but not at the expense of your dignity.”
We sat in silence for a few moments, watching people pass by our bench and gazing upon the occasional squirrel that leaped across the grass.
“So,” I asked, finally breaking our collective meditation, “did you track me down just to compliment me, or was there something else?”
The young genius flashed a mysterious grin and shrugged.
“Are you going to give me an actual interview?”
The boy paused in thought before speaking again.
“Yes…and no. Well…it’s a little complicated.”
“I don’t see how it is,” I retorted, growing annoyed that the boy was starting to play games with me again. “Either give me an interview or not. If not, then…”
“Look,” he cut in, “I can give you your interview. I can tell you things that I haven’t told anyone else. I can give you a story that would set your notebook on fire. Now, whether you’ll actually want to write what I’m about to tell you, well…I’ll let you be the judge. What do you say?”
“I say you’re being very cryptic.”
“I suppose I am.”
“Why would I not want to write up this interview? Will it get me into any trouble?”
“No. At least, not in the way that you mean by trouble.”
“What do you mean by trouble?”
The boy heaved a sigh.
“Let me just tell you my story. Then you can determine for yourself.”