cles dripping from the gutter and a screen door whose spring was broken
in perpetuity. Gordie’s half, owned by an interior designer on the first
floor, was slate gray with charcoal trim, its front door painted deep red,
with a motion-sensor light meant to look like an old streetlamp. Around
Gordie’s scrap of lawn, the owner had piled flat rocks to form a quaint
stone border encircling pale tulips that, in this coldest, grayest May, were
only now fully bloomed. Propped in the woodchips was a sign:
No Matter Where You Are From
You Are Welcome Here
The driver left them there, at the concrete stoop, in front of which
Gordie’s landlord had embedded some aspirational cobblestones. Gordie
said, “I hereby offer my admittedly unexceptional culinary services.”
Talia said, “Honestly, all I want to do is sleep.” Normally she would
ask him up and they would lounge on her pilly sofa and talk until late.
Gordie’s cheeks flushed; probably he thought this was still about the
other night. He looked away and mumbled, “Well, knock if you need
me.” He meant on the wall. Talia’s living room abutted his bedroom.
Too weary to say anything more, Talia told him, “Thanks, Bug.” She
wrapped her arms around herself and gave a squeeze, a tradition of
theirs, since Gordie’s being “on the spectrum” meant he didn’t usually
like to be touched.
She told work she was still sick and slept late. Daylight helped her to
feel less panicked about the “small hole.” She fried up some eggs and
spread wheat toast with honey and drank a mug of hot green tea. Then
she pulled on her exercise clothes, gathered her hair into a high, poofy
ponytail, and went out to look for whoever had helped her.
Maxine was on the front steps, heading in with her wad of junk mail.
The first time she had called Talia an angry black woman was two
years ago, during an incident involving Talia’s stereo. And though Talia
was, technically, just as much an angry white woman—with gray eyes
and the Norwegian stature and broad cheekbones of her mother—
Maxine was right; it was the black part that was angry (furious), and the
woman part (outraged), more than the white part, which, due to Talia’s
having her father’s bronze skin, went largely ignored.
The second time Maxine called her that, while Talia listened from
the stairwell, was to their ancient landlord, Mr. Figueiredo, who lived on