Among the Living
A young woman flops down at a table, asking loudly, “Is there pecan pie today?” Broken protocol: you’re supposed to go up to the counter, place your order, wait for your food, and when it’s ready, take it to your seat to eat. The cook says, “No, pecan-cheese today,” and the woman at the table starts crying. You think, “Yes, she is crazy,” and then she starts looking through the trash, calling out brightly, “I’m just looking for a piece of pie!” Everyone ignores her: the three older dykes next to you, the Albanians behind the counter, you with a fork in your blueberry pie, everyone watches her intently through the backs of their heads, foreheads homing in on her like radar, thinking, “Yes, she is crazy.” She finds the potato salad you threw away and draws it carefully out of the trash, she keeps jerking slightly, a spastic electricity in her head, neck, arms, legs―
You can’t finish your pie. You get up and put on your coat, everyone watching you intently with their foreheads. You take your pie to her, say, “Do you want the rest of this? I can’t eat any more.” And she nods her head shyly, looks up, then down, then up at your face, says, “I thought you had blue eyes,” and you say, “No, they’re brown,” and she says, “My friend wanted to have purple eyes but something went wrong,” and you say, “Really?” and throw your coffee in the trash, and she dives after it saying, “Oh, is that tea?” And you say, “Oh, I’m sorry,” everyone ignoring you, listening to you, chins pressed to their chests, and she stops digging, looks up in wonder, says, “Your hair is streaming out in waves―” and you know she means you are a person, a fact as blinding as the sun.