opens her eyes and it is dark. She has heard Lea come in. Already there is low
music from the other room. When Terry sleeps in the afternoon she usually wakens
tense and unsettled, and now there is an unpleasant metallic taste in her mouth
as well. She tries out a question under her breath, then switches on the desk
lamp and goes out into the kitchen.
foggy?" Terry kisses Lea lightly on her cheekbone, just below her ear.
looks up. "Very foggy. A real soup, as they say."
haven't been out."
is humming tunelessly. After a moment she asks, "Finish your article today?
pours herself a glass of wine. Lea is shredding lettuce and Terry wonders whether
she would like some wine too. These small moments are the ones she feels will
eventually overcome her; they pause like a trapeze trapped at the top of its arc.
It would be polite of her to offer to pour Lea some wine, but perhaps it would
also be an intrusion, she doesn't know. In any case the wine was her idea and
she doesn't feel as if she should be compelled to share it. She will not be deliberately
rude; if Lea asks her, she will pour her a glass and that will be that. Terry
wonders if Lea is waiting for her to ask, of her own accord, whether she wants
some wine. Will she abstain simply because Terry hasn't offered?
bored with the writing now," Terry says. But it's the matter of not starting
that's boring her, and she can't tell Lea that. She doesn't want to make that
acknowledgment, step over that line; she might not be able to get back.
continues to shred the lettuce and Terry sees she will get no response from her.
She is amazed at the violence of this shredding. She closes the refrigerator door
firmly, leaving the wine in the darkness with the cold cabbage and the San Pellegrino.
she and Lea have become uneasy, rather formal with one another, Terry suspecting
imminent disaster, Lea in a sense longing for it, urging it forward. So Terry
believes. She has come to believe several things that a year ago would never have
occurred to her. She can never be sure about them; they engage and disengage themselves,
these ideas. Sometimes she lies awake imagining that everything she has taken
for granted all her life is collapsing like fractured glass around her; at other
moments she is convinced that all her terrors, the worst of her nightmares, are
in fact true. That at some moment there will be no more air, for example. Also
that she can actually feel the speed of time that is carrying her toward death,
that this death might occur as quickly as midnight is coming, when she will have
to go to work. She knows the hour of her death will arrive as naturally and speedily
as that. At the moment of her death it is possible that she will remember this
evening, it will be that close.
come here," she says to Lea, setting her glass on top of the refrigerator.
What she means is stop. "Listen. Let's go out and eat."
looks up. "What do you want me to do with all of this? It's almost done.
The beans, the rice." She gestures. "I'm about to do the tacos."
Terry looks blankly at the stove. "Look. Everything's chopped up here."
it save. It'll save, put it away. Let's go up to Jack's. I feel like having some
people around me." She glances at Lea quickly. "I mean, more
"You always do this when it's my turn to cook. When I've already begun."
put it away, and tomorrow night there won't be anything to do at all." She
is already into her jacket. "I want to get out of here. I've been working
hard, and I want to get out." The lie swells in her chest and settles there.
The phone rings as they go out the door, the first time it's rung all day.
make their way toward the dull glow that is Centre Street. Terry feels perfectly,
unusually safe in this fog. It presses damply against her eyes; cool shreds of
dark air touch her and glide away.
the restaurant they must wait briefly for a table, and they sit at the big oak
bar. There is no one here tonight that they know. The restaurant is long and comfortably
narrow with wood floors and a low ceiling. Noise does not escape, and the non-smoking
section is for all practical purposes nonexistent. Terry likes it here. She knows
it. The food is good. There are no surprises.
a new waitress," Lea observes, looking toward the tables in the back. Terry
is thinking of something else. She is calculating times. She finds this calms
her down sometimes, enlarges her perspective. Tonight she is considering flying
times. In the two hours it will probably take them to eat and return home, for
example, she might have flown from Boston, where they are, to St. Louis. Or to
Chicago. She might be part way to London. It takes her longer to get to her parents'
home in Connecticut than it does to fly to Miami. Why is it that when she was
younger thoughts like these didn't seem so ominous? Now they seem full of vast,
she's asking if you want something else to drink."
looks up. They have been seated at a table in the back, near the kitchen, and
the waitress is standing close to her, next to the wall. She meets Terry's gaze
steadily with calm, dark eyes, smiling slightly. Inches from Terry's face her
arm is bent, gracefully poised with her order pad. Terry sees the fine, blond
hair on her arm and looks down quickly, overwhelmed by a sudden and profound awareness
of her. She can smell her; her body gives off a faint spicy fragrance, as if she
has just stepped out of the bath. Her belly rises gently under her skirt as she
takes a breath and Terry makes a small involuntary move toward her, as if to lay
her head against her hip; then she seems to fall away from herself with a shock
and is suddenly, expansively, happy.
the wine list," she says, smiling. The waitress departs.
wine list?" Lea asks her incredulously. "We never buy a bottle here.
They don't have anything worth a bottle."
is she?" Terry asks, half turned in her chair.
told you, Jack's hired someone new." She pauses. "Yes, she's lovely,
isn't she? High cheekbones, dark hair. Very Mediterranean." With this observation
Lea dismisses the new waitress.
sits with her hands cupped around the empty glass she has carried with her from
the bar. When the wine list is placed before her, she attempts to appear distracted.
tells the waitress, "Come back in a few minutes."
can I ask her? Terry thinks furiously. What complicated question can I
the waitress returns she is still thinking, and finally Lea says, "Oh, just
bring some Pinot Grigio, thanks."
menu is simple. They order some simple things.
"Listen," she says to Lea.
"I've been in that broken chair all afternoon. You want to change places
with me, so I can rest my back against the wall?"
stand up, and suddenly the waitress is at Terry's side, pressed, actually, slightly
against her. Terry thinks she feels the swell of her breast against her arm and
again an elation rises in her. She grasps the back of the chair. "We're just
changing places," she says quickly. This process is clumsily completed, and
the waitress stands and watches them impassively.
out of the Pinot Grigio," the waitress says when they are settled. "You
want the list again?"
don't bother," Terry says. "Bring us your choice, but dry and white."
saw a Graves on the list, bring that," Lea says.
from this position, Terry can watch the room. "Why did you tell her that?"
she says. "I wanted to see what she would bring."
doesn't know anything about wine. She'd probably bring Chablis. You hate Chablis."
remembers with horror that she didn't take a shower today. And like a quick return
into a terrible dream she realizes her unshowered and -- what was she wearing?
She has slept in these clothes.
didn't you tell me I looked like such a mess?" she asks Lea irritably.
were in a hurry. Coming here, it generally doesn't matter."
"That's not the point. We're out. We were going out."
waitress arrives with the wine. Terry watches her eyes concentrating on the corkscrew.
Her eyes are large, and dark, almost black. Terry wants to say something. "I'll
taste," she says lightly, resting one cheek in the palm of her hand. But
the waitress has broken the cork. She apologizes, takes the bottle to the bar.
embarrassed," Terry says. She finds this charming.
waitress returns with the open bottle and watches while Terry tastes. "This
is very good," she says. "Absolutely delicious, in fact."
waitress raises her eyebrows and starts for the kitchen, but then Jack calls her
back to the bar. He has to call loudly, because the restaurant has become busier;
people are nearly shouting. Terry doesn't catch the name that Jack calls her.
In a moment she returns to their table with a dented aluminum ice bucket and a
she says, "I forgot this." She doesn't meet Terry's glance, she doesn't
see that it's all right with her.
a moment Terry stands up.
now?" Lea says.
goes to the bar and motions to Jack. "Don't give her a hard time, Jack. She's
stubs out his cigarette. "I'm not giving her a hard time. She didn't remember
about the ice bucket with the white wine is all. She's all right." Terry
wants to ask her name, but Jack moves off. She sees the waitress watching from
another table where she is taking an order. Terry feels good. Perhaps she has
helped her. New on the job and all.
salad is limp and indifferent. Terry usually makes a point of asking for it after
her main course, but tonight she takes it from the hands of the waitress as if
declining to be served, and eats it slowly. She does not return Terry's smile.
hope she doesn't think I was complaining about her to Jack."
Lea had been talking about Boston Lyric Opera, about a production of Puritani.
watches the waitress move from table to table; she seems friendly with the other
customers, relaxed. She smiles at the others, at other tables, and they all look
good to Terry; they are clean, attractive, sure of themselves with her. Terry
wonders about her, how she lives, where she lives, how she sleeps, how she makes
love. She is beginning to feel a little drunk. When she takes her hair down at
night, how far does it fall?
waitress approaches with their dinners.
Terry says to Lea, leaning forward. "There's something we've got to talk
about, something that's bothering me."
"I need to
know why, when we sleep together, I mean sleep, that recently you always
have to have the radio going."
looks at her blankly. "You want to talk about this now?"
doesn't, really, because it has become a serious issue for her, this radio playing.
She sees it as another sign of Lea's distraction, a movement away from her. She
doesn't want to talk about it now, but it is the only serious thing she can think
The waitress arrives.
mean," Lea says, "we're only sleeping together twice a week, now that
you're working nights."
is a brief pause. Terry smiles, but at Lea.
has the 'Chicken Kiev'?" the waitress asks.
do," Terry says, her eyes still on Lea. She remains leaning forward, in an
intimate pose designed to exclude the waitress.
she, seeing no other way, attempts to place Terry's plate in front of her from
an awkward angle, and in so doing spills most of the liquid on the plate into
the glass of wine. A couple of peas also roll in.
leans back. "It's okay, it's okay," she says.
the waitress says. She is exasperated, blushing slightly. She removes the glass.
really green," Lea says, cutting her snapper with her fork.
beautiful," Terry answers, watching the waitress at the bar.
beautiful and green, then."
waitress is back with a glass of wine. "On the house," she says. "I'm
very sorry." Terry senses the absence of feeling in these words.
no need for this." Terry puts a hand on her arm. "We have plenty."
draws away. "Is everything else all right?"
is fine," Lea says. "Thanks."
really no need --" Terry continues. But the waitress has turned away. She
stares after her, the feel of her flesh clinging to her palm. "She doesn't
need to be unfriendly."
out of her pocket." Lea is busy with the fish. "Now what about this
sighs. "I don't know."
didn't know it bothered you. I've been doing it since you've been working nights.
It helps me sleep. I've gotten used to it."
is Chablis," Terry says. "I won't drink it."
lays down her fork. "You don't want to talk about the radio?"
now." Her chicken is cold, but she cleans her plate. At the other tables
the waitress smiles, she stands and talks casually with the customers as if she
has known them for many years. Terry watches grimly. At the paper that night she
would have thought about her, as she edited and rewrote other people's words.
She would have felt better about herself, knowing she had acted in a certain way
with her. Now she feels the cracks in her skin; she feels her brain cells dying
like tiny lights going out, one by one; her breasts sagging. She wants no more
of this expanding disillusionment. She wants nothing more now than to be angry.
takes her water glass, which is empty, empties the remainder of the bottle of
Graves into it, and returns the bottle to the bucket with a crash. Across the
room the waitress looks up, startled.
you want to go to work drunk?" Lea looks at her and smiles slightly. "You're
in an odd mood."
waitress has crossed to their table. "Are you finished?" Her hand pauses
over the full glass of Chablis.
Lea answers, after watching Terry for a moment. She drinks deeply from her water
glass of Graves.
espressos," Lea says.
asks for the check, then finds to her astonishment that she has left her billfold
it on my card," Lea says. "I don't have enough cash for the whole thing."
coffee is bitter, and sugar doesn't help. She will never come to this place again,
and she has loved it for many years. It is time to be giving it up. It is childish
to keep returning to the same place.
the matter?" she asks Lea.
pen won't work."
it to me." She stands up unsteadily.
the waitress figuring a bill at the bar. She places the pen neatly in her way.
"If you want the check signed, give me a pen that works," she says.
moves down. "What's the problem?"
"Broken pen," the waitress
by the cash register. Terry and the waitress face each other silently.
you go," Jack says.
you made a mistake here with this one, Jack," Terry says slowly. She does
not turn away from Terry. Her face is blank, indifferent. Terry doesn't know if
Jack has heard.
the fog has lifted slightly and the street is washed with neon. They walk east
on Centre Street and meet the wind in their faces. On the back of the check the
waitress had written, "Thank you. Gina." This message, Terry supposes,
was for Lea.
She had only
wanted to be able to think about her, to suppose by some magic that the waitress
might remember her. To suppose that she might think of her, even once, while she
was getting ready for bed, perhaps. Terry knows now that she won't be able to
imagine this; she will be ashamed even to remember what the waitress looked like.
don't understand this at all," Lea says.
was friendly with everyone else. How were we different?"
was friendly enough. She was new, she was nervous."
begins to go over the evening, moment by moment, pointing out to Lea how the waitress
had been discourteous, inept, reminding her how she had responded. "It wasn't
just that she was new. Somehow she took a dislike to us, to me, I don't know why.
Who knows why, with people like that? She's probably an aspiring actress, or an
aspiring something else. We weren't the right kind of people for her to be nice
to, it's as simple as that. I should have said something more to Jack."
did you say to Jack?"
was coming on to me at first too, did I tell you that? She pressed against my
leg. Then probably she saw how I looked, my clothes -- "
of course, thought we were, we had just -- "
She pulls Terry around to face her. "What's going on here? You don't even
know this woman. She's done nothing to you, absolutely nothing."
traffic stops. They turn down Green Street, and after a few minutes the lights
from Centre Street disappear behind them in the dark.
I rude, then? I was pretty rude, right?" She is afraid to ask if she has
made a fool of herself.
been ruder, certainly."
stop by the Green Street subway stop, and a space seems to open around her. She
looks down the stairs and thinks, If I was that rude, maybe I should take her
some flowers. Maybe I should do that, it would be a nice gesture. I could do that
tomorrow afternoon. I could take her some flowers at the restaurant tomorrow afternoon,
late, after I wake up.
subway entrance is smeared with grime and sodden trash, and they move forward
past it into the deeper darkness. She knows Lea will leave her, very soon.