She heard the coffeemaker clanging, the grinder, the stovetop rattle,
the steam. Her head hurt and she reached for the valium on the bedside
table. The music started, from out there. Blue Jay Way.
She did not have a room mate, was not expecting company. Not aware of
company. The last thing she remembered from the night before was
stepping out of the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street, and deciding to
turn left and head for Decatur.
There was a blue mark on her wrist, coming from the inside of her and
out to the surface, not floating on the surface trying to sink in.
She had accomplished the main things, the past five years. Her
accounts were fully funded.
Her apartment was small, and old. So old that her unit had once been
slave quarters. She could hear the ghosts some nights, rise up to talk
with them. She would simultaneously apologize and explain away
ancestral responsibility. Quakers, she said. They helped with the
underground railroad. There was even one intermarriage, after they had
moved up north, all of them. Look, see, here's the tin type.
Last night the ghosts left her alone. But someone didn't.
The few steps to the bedroom door felt in her like the full hike
Appalachian. She splashed her face. Rinsed her mouth. Touched her
hair. Punched at her lips with a stick of cocoa butter.
Her steps were so quiet, fingers brushing the walls. She stopped,
framed by the doorway, looking at the back of him. He had curls.
Biscuits and gravy on her table. The striped cloth napkins -- where had
he found them? The floor was cleaner than she'd seen it in a while,
and the dustpan leaned against a cabinet door.
What's your name, she said.
The table was set for one. A side of fried potatoes, with rosemary
from her plant on the windowsill. Juice.
A giant orange daisy stolen from her neighbor's container garden. Or
was it borrowed?
For you, he said, turning.
He backed to the door, not breaking gaze. Out, close, his steps on the
creaky stairs, tip tunk tip tunk. Light across the courtyard. The
heavy iron gate below.
She sat. She ate her breakfast.