There had been a boyfriend Talia thought she might marry, nearly a
decade ago. She’d been with him just over two years when, on his Facebook page one day, he posted a photo he’d taken, of his pale fingers intertwined with her darker ones, and as the image garnered a flood of enthusiastic typed comments, Talia found that this same boyfriend’s other
self-congratulatory acts, each concerning his union with Talia, swiftly
returned to her, a whole flatulent parade of them, until it seemed her love
for him, too, must be tainted, and she knew she had to leave him.
“We’re having our pancake breakfast Saturday,” the VFW woman
said, “if you want to bring your friends.” Talia was momentarily flummoxed. Did the woman not know what that big hand-painted sign out
front meant? Talia heard herself make a sort of grunt. “Thanks,” she told
the woman briskly, and left.
Even after she had crossed to the next block, though, she felt odd and
in some way tarnished for not admitting that she, Talia, was the person
who had been taken away in the ambulance.
The next stretch, too, brought no luck. Probably Talia was in the wrong
area altogether. Yet some inner stubbornness, or perhaps thoroughness,
kept her from skipping more than the apartment buildings set far back
from the street and the great brick cavern that was City Hall.
Even when the man in the money-wiring place addressed her in Portuguese (she was sometimes assumed to be Brazilian) and insisted he
had no English, Talia did not skip ahead. She pantomimed jogging and
falling and made the whine of a siren, but no sign of recognition crossed
the man’s face. And as the sun shifted and long, thin clouds streaked
the sky, everything began to look strange, the shop windows with their
signs pressed to the glass—Cash for Gold and Lavender honey gelato!
and Nao Fazemos Remessa. In front of the Crossfit, grunting disciples
hauled medicine balls up and down the gray sidewalk, back and forth,
on some baffling mission. Autos convalescing at the Mecânica Brasileira
seemed to have gathered for a dreary reunion. In the dry cleaner’s, the
carousel of hangers sheathed in plastic moved like a procession of shimmering apparitions.
She was stepping back outside when her cell phone buzzed.
Carla here from the VFW. Just so you
know whose number this is. Will see
if the guys know anything.