Two blocks back, I think I know her, but she recedes like the burned-off fog that lifted by noon to reveal this new day. If I knew her, she isn’t the same. I can’t be sure I’ve seen her, but I wonder who she is now, if anyone really knows.
He thinks of me as the walking woman. In my head, he’s the man who lives on his lawn. There must be 4000 square feet of interior space, but he’s always here when I’m here to smile and say hello. He wonders where I live, if I’m alone. He knows I must be. I hope he’s not.
I pull in as she’s struggling with her bags. We work together, but I dawdle in the car because the coffee hasn’t dripped small talk onto my tongue just yet. Later, I’ll ask about her grandchildren, the little girls with blonde braids, or the small dog she carries onto airplanes.
There should be a word for acquiescent strangers swerving in the same direction to let the other pass. There should be a code, like kissing: heads to the right. Feet to the right and we’re all alright. Lock eyes, mumble apology. I clutch my shoulder as if it’s bruised.
On my way to your place, a throaty murmur describes my body as my flat sandals strike the pavement. I speak, I’m a bitch. I say nothing, I’m an image. I smile, but the voice misunderstands. I’m glad he’s stupid. I’m glad you’ll walk me back.
You knew her long ago, pretended to like the hyena laugh, the broomstick skirts. You’d walk on by, but the flicker flame of recognition has lit up the eyes you pretended to like, and it almost kills you, but you ask how long they’ve been married. Two years now, is that right? But you won’t kill yourself today.
He’s at the register when I want to be, wearing a shirt I bought and wrapped in tissue paper and placed in a white box nearly two years ago. I imagine there are almonds on the conveyor belt; his habits haven’t changed. She isn’t here. He hasn’t seen me, so neither am I.
They stood there staring until I jumped from the iron-work chair into awkward embraces. They knew me though my hair is yellow now, my jawline sharper than before. They might have heard me laughing and were sure. We talk about things no one understands and feel we’re in the clubhouse again, eating Shakespeare sandwiches.