Talia wished Gordie would hold her hand, anything to comfort her.
The woman stepped gingerly forward. She reached out and, as if to determine that there really was someone standing before her, let her fingertips graze Talia’s.
A sensation came over Talia. Of strong hands covering her. A blanket
laid gently across her body.
“¿No se murió?”
Talia understood, then, that the woman must have thought she was
seeing a ghost.
“I came to thank you.” Talia’s cheeks felt wet. So, she saw, were the
woman’s. Talia wanted to apologize for frightening her. But she didn’t
know how to say this, so she reached for the woman’s hand. And even
as she explained that she was fine, all was well, and that this was her
friend Gordie, even as she thanked both women once more and told
them goodbye, still her palm pressed those warm knuckles and she
didn’t want to let go.
The first time Gordie ever knocked on Talia’s wall had been by accident. He had just moved in and was shifting furniture around, making
a racket. After a particularly dramatic series of thumps, Talia had loudly
(perhaps channeling Maxine) rapped the sequence back. The shuffling
noises stopped. Then came a series of light, purposeful, rhythmic taps.
Knuckles to the wall, Talia mirrored the rhythm. Two quick taps
came back. Talia responded in kind. When Gordie tapped just once,
Talia tapped out a long complicated reply.
Then Gordie stopped tapping. She could hear him running down the
stairs, and she hurried down hers, to try to beat him to the front door.
But when she arrived, breathless, he was already there, looking somehow awkward despite his firm jaw and Superman hair.
He did not smile, did not offer a handshake or hello. He said, “Well,
so, how would you rate your skills at figuring out where the furniture
Outside the beauty shop, Gordie said, very quietly, “Wow.”
The breeze was softer now, the sky iridescent. A cloying odor wafted
from where a man sat smoking on a bench. “I understood I could have
died,” Talia said, “but I hadn’t stopped to think . . .” She stopped walk-
ing, turned to Gordie. “I might have lost you.”