I remembered spattered raindrops on a picture window pane on a gray day. I want to
talk about a girl: a sweet girl. We met a few years before the ‘Changes,' before
the end of the known world. We were both caught in a waiting game. We became
My life was chiaroscuro. I’ve never lost the vanity of being aware of how the light
portrayed me, even through the Changes. Strange times: time without leaders because
everyone in the world had stopped following; time without invasive corporations
because everyone began to mind their own business; time without crime because there
were no laws to enforce, and time without romance because we had all, in our way, been
I appreciated the company of a woman who was beautiful, worldly, and articulate,
but we were not lovers. I thought she was sweet, and sweet is tangible, and
something about that quality turned me off. I would turn my face to my friends,
just so, to make my point, and talk longingly of some lover I could take for
granted, but I knew they were vain words. I needed someone who could arouse my
curiosity and anger, someone who could allow me to throw caution to the wind. That
is the way it has been with love with me. With her was all the semblance of what I
claimed to want. I knew just what to expect. I saw it. Our friends saw it. She was
genuinely attracted to me. But in spite of all of the persuasion and all the hints
and all the invitations, I did not venture into her. I refused to be led.
I had left town for a while and I hadn’t seen her. It had been raining like the day
that I met her, but it had stopped in the evening, so I biked to the grocery store.
I wandered over to the meat case. My fingers pressed the flesh of a rack of beef
ribs, crinkling the cellophane.
I turned around and she was standing in the aisle less than two feet from me. It was
disconcerting because she didn’t seem to recognize me. I wasn’t totally sure if it was her.
She looked unnatural, or supernatural. It was as though someone had made a perfect
likeness of her, staring there wide-eyed at nothing, as if merely presenting herself to be
looked at. I didn’t want to be rude, if it was her, but I didn’t want to look like an idiot if
I turned my head beneath the fluorescent lights to an angle that brought
out my features unmistakably, but when I glanced back in her direction, she had
I left without buying anything. I was a little shaken up by the encounter. If it
had been her then she was nothing like I knew her. There was something before her
that I could not fathom. I was bemused, and more than a little intrigued by this
I unlocked my bike and turned to leave. She was back, standing right in my path.
This time she was looking right at me, with an intense and unreadable look in her
eyes. It was deliberate, but not desire.
Still not sure, I ventured, “Hi. Are you lost?”
“You’re sweet,” she said.
There was nothing behind her but pitch-black darkness.