but she was gazing at him, so he said hello. She looked gloomy and bitter.
But she made a little smile toward him. Then they waited.
He realized he had been looking at the dates. He often skipped lunch
when he was working. “No,” he said. “Thank you.”
“Have you noticed how many people here wear orange?” she asked.
“It’s like black in New York.”
Her pronunciation was American shaded with an accent he couldn’t
place. He said, “For centuries the galleons carried Spanish oranges and
orange blossoms in trade around the world.”
“Yeah?” She had a gleaming silver stud in her nose, deep-set eyes and
very short, pale blond hair that swirled like a baby’s. She hawked a date
pit into the street with impressive ferocity. Then a bus jolted into place
before them. It was not the number that Simon needed, but the girl
A moment passed before Simon saw that she had left the white paper
bag on the low wall. He picked it up and looked inside. There were several dates left, and by the time his bus arrived, he had eaten them all.
Two nights later there was a knock, and the girl stood there with a
brown leather suitcase. Her clothes—gray sweatshirt with an open zipper, gray T-shirt, blue pants—were wrinkled and smeared. Her eyes
looked even more deeply recessed. Simon fumbled his greeting, and she
didn’t reply but only closed her eyes. For a moment she stood framed in
the doorway like that. Eyes closed. Suitcase in hand. Then she asked if
she could come in.
She stayed only a minute. She made her request, set down the suitcase,
said thank you. “Is that all?” Simon asked. “You don’t want to leave it
across the hall? Did something happen?”
“No, she’s been OK.” She spent a moment looking in one direction,
then another, as if confused. She refused food or drink. She said she had
to go, and she did.
Simon was determined to hold the suitcase and not open it, as he
had promised. He felt a moral obligation to honor his word. Moreover,
he trusted the girl. Her manner had been very plain. She had troubles.
Anyone could see that. But she was without malice. She reminded Simon
of his son, without the posturing and falseness.
He sat on the sofa listening to the sounds of a noisy bar around
the corner and the occasional rip of a scooter in the cramped streets.
Around the time that Dennis had turned two, Anny and Simon had