She took the man to do his laundry, said she'd be at the interstate,
but instead she bolted to the cafe, where she didn't expect so many
people, a flag outside with striped pastels and marchers. Women
holding hands, short-haired, man-like. She groaned, though she didn't
feel hostile. She wanted space. She drove home, and she realized the
man had left his phone, and how would he call for a ride? She went to
get him, finding him on a bench looking homeless. She parked and sat,
and he told her to wait. She used to date him. She used to kiss him.
She used to love him. Now he was a man, waiting for his clothes to
dry. He said he needed to fold, and she waited in the car, reading a
book, and then she popped the trunk. She said, now what? and he said
he felt bedridden. He wanted to come over. Instead she took him to his
place, where he asked her to come in, but he always did, never
touching, saying thanks for the ride.
They were quiet, and the room was like vacation. Basic training,
without her instructors. Bunk beds, and each girl was a woman. They
woke quiet, in a tiptoe, and some were friends. They spoke in
languages. There were twelve there, and her man had suggested that she
sleep there. He was from London, but now he was borrowing her car for
a ride across this country. Her, she had to be there, and he said to
her why not.
She kept her suitcase open and slept on the bottom. She put her dirty
socks in a bag, and kept her head down on the way to the bathroom. In
the kitchen people gathered with food of their own, and she needed a
code. The cafe next door had a chandelier and she spent hours there
before getting on the subway.
The man had said they might keep you up, and there might be a party.
She called him, saying it was something. There were things around the
corner, a station. The last time, she'd been alone there, walking
alone, returning alone, alone alone alone there.
She returned after midnight, to find a girl up reading, another one
with a blanket like her sister. Another slept in a ball and the girl
above her wasn't back yet.
She changed into her sleep clothes. She read a book called H2O. She
took off her earrings and her make-up. She fell asleep with the dreams
of her childhood.
So he slept, and she couldn't, and she got out her computer, moved it
to the table, where his work sat unfinished, and she smelled a
brownie, a cork from a bottle. She ran her thumb over with a pebble
from a place she'd gone alone once, where the flow of the water
reminded her of peace, and she felt a chill each time she tipped her
There was a note from her son, who was on his way to sign his life off
to his country. He was certain, and now he'd been practicing his aim,
shooting off at ranges. He asked her about sit-ups, and what was it
like for her then? She wrote him, saying Honey. Honey. Honey. He was
finished as a freshman.
There was also a note from the mayor, and he'd been sending songs, the
classics and their histories, and when she once asked him which
musician was performing, he said: did it matter? She'd said that a
performer is the artist in translation. He'd been a translator, yes?
He meant well, maybe, but she'd already had plenty of lessons.
The mayor wrote about his mother. She'll live to be a hundred, he said
in the note. He sent another song, and she put on her headphones. It
was about Clinton, and his blow job and the song kept repeating blow
There was a note from the other man who'd won and she'd thanked him
for the dinner. He'd given her what seemed like well-intentioned
kindness. He asked her to a play, and said that he could fetch her,
but now she wasn't so sure about anything.
She closed her computer and turned to face the window. The shades were
open. Trees sat like the day she moved in. One was missing several
branches, probably from the storm years before.
She closed the shades, and made her way in the dark, careful not to