She told Gordie what the doctor had said, about the hole, the medication. Just mentioning it made her queasy. “No cancerous tumors or
anything like that,” she said, trying not to let on how terrified she was.
She could see Gordie clenching his jaw, the dimple emerging in his
smooth, gaunt cheek. He was ridiculously handsome, not to mention unnaturally smart. More specifically, he was “on the spectrum,” though at
first Talia had merely suspected that part. He had told her one night up
in her living room shortly after they met. As the Eroica surged from her
enormous prehistoric stereo, Talia had mentioned some theory about Beethoven and mild autism, to which Gordie had said simply, “I have that.”
Which perhaps explained why he chose to hang out with a forty-five-year-old “angry black woman” rather than dewy, age-appropriate friends.
Until what happened the other night, Talia had never seen him upset.
Now, watching him chew the corner of his pink mouth, she was forced
to admit that despite her doctor’s calm demeanor, something really
alarming had occurred. And so she acknowledged what must also have
been real. “Someone waited with me.”
Someone had run off and returned with a blanket. And someone
else—yes, there was a second person, too—had remained with her, hold-
ing her hand. Saying it, Talia knew it was true.
“I want to find them. To thank them. And let them know I’m all
right.” But she didn’t know who or where they were.
Gordie asked to see the printout from the hospital. It lay on her lap
along with her little paper bag of medication. She handed over the flimsy
page and watched Gordie read, his brow crimping. He said, “This thing
is fucking useless.”
That was when he asked if she had taken any pictures along her run.
Sometimes she did that, to text him ones she thought might make him
laugh, since Gordie didn’t smile much.
She took out her phone, but her eyes were too tired. A great weariness
overcame her. “I’m sorry, Bug, I can’t do this right now.” She didn’t know
why she called him Bug. It was just something she had said once that
The car had arrived at their block, a strip of row houses built close
to the curb, each with a patch of lawn the size of a bath mat. Like the
others, theirs was split down the middle by side-by-side front doors like
Though it was technically one house, Talia’s half was painted a periwinkle color, with unlit Christmas lights strung up the side and fake ici-