Mary Miller

A man with a gun sprints by our table, close enough for me to touch him if it wasn’t for the plate glass window. It’s three in the morning and we just left the bar, walked across the street because you were hungry. I want to get up and go but you’ve already ordered and you want your omelet. You want it with fried ham and toast.

“I like the toast here,” you say. “The way they slice it into little triangles and soak it in butter. Have I mentioned that?”

The lights are bright and your forehead is littered with blackheads. I’d like to squeeze them, but I know better than to ask, to touch you without provocation. We’re not there yet, at the grooming stage, and it’s doubtful we ever will be.

Your name is James. You don’t like it when people call you Jim or Jimmy or Jimbo. You have a lot of likes and dislikes. I am the only thing you seem to be neutral about.

“Alice,” you say. “You should eat. Why don’t you eat?”

We discuss this sometimes, why I don’t eat. Why don’t I eat?

“I always eat. I have a candy bar in my purse as we speak.”


I watch you watch our waitress and think about my bed, about whether I’ll ever find you in it again. You have a tendency to do your business on my couch, to get up and leave when finished, and I have a tendency to let you. I take the bar of chocolate from my purse and tear open the wrapper, shove a chunk of it in my mouth. I let it melt on my tongue, which is difficult because I want to swallow. I want to get rid of it as efficiently as possible.

You pat my hand and say, “See? It’s not so bad. Next time you should try something with a bit of nutritional value, though.”

Later, my hands flat against the wall and my knees pressed into the couch. I examine the floral pattern with great concentration, the pinks and reds and purples in various stages of bloom. I am a lot of trouble, you seem to say, with each thrust. Something else to satisfy.

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