“You are not a slut.” I wasn’t exactly sure if this was true.

“No, you’re right. I’m not a slut. yet.”

“You could just stop drinking.” I had an interesting relationship with drinking in that I could take it or leave it. drink, not drink, it did not matter to me. Most people, I’d found so far, fell strongly on one side or the other.ana fell strongly on the “drinking” side.

“What are you talking about?”

“You know, stop getting drunk.”

“At all?”

“Stop it. I’m not saying something preposterous here.there are plenty of people that just don’t drink.”

“Yeah, elsie, they’re called alcoholics.”

I laughed. “Fair enough, drinking isn’t the problem. It’s the sleeping around.”

“Right. so I’m just going to stop sleeping around.”

“And what happens when you meet someone you really want to be with?”

“Well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I didn’t meet anyone last year worth my time. I can’t say I expect that to change this year.”

Daphne showed up with two eggs Benedicts and my iced tea. she put them down in front of us, and I didn’t realize how hungry I’d been until the food was staring me in the face. I dug right in.

Ana nodded, chewing. When it started to look like she could speak without spitting food, she added, “I mean, if I meet someone and fall in love, sure. But until then, nobody’s getting in here.” she made an x in the air with her utensils.

“Fair enough.” the best part about this place was they put spinach in the eggs Benedict, kind of an eggs Benedict Florentine. “this doesn’t mean I can’t sleep around though, right?” I said to her.

“No, you still can. you won’t. But you still can.”

Ana was soon on her way back to the other side of town. she was living in santa Monica in a condo that overlooked the pacific ocean. I’d’ve been jealous enough to resent her if she hadn’t offered on a regular basis for me to move in. I always declined, knowing that living with ana might be the only thing that could teach me to dislike her. I never did understand how ana could live the way she did on the salary of a part-time yoga teacher, but she always seemed to have enough money for the things she wanted and needed when she wanted and needed them.

After she left, I walked back to my apartment. I knew exactly how I’d be spending my afternoon. It was a new year and I always felt like a new year didn’t feel new without rearranging the furniture. the problem was that I had rearranged my apartment so many times in the two years I’d lived there that I’d exhausted all rational possibilities. I loved my apartment and worked hard to afford it and decorate it. so as I moved the couch from wall to wall, ultimately realizing that it really looked best where it was originally, I was still satisfied. I moved the bookcase from one wall to another, switched my end tables, and decided this was enough of a change for me to commemorate the year. I sat down on the couch, turned on the television, and fell asleep.

It was 5:00 p.m. when I woke up, and while it was technically a saturday night and single people on saturday nights are supposed to go out to bars or clubs and find a date, I opted to watch television, read a book, and order a pizza. Maybe this year was going to be the year I did whatever the hell I wanted, regardless of social norms. Maybe.

When it started raining, I knew I’d been right to stay inside. ana called a few hours later asking what I was doing.

“I wanted to make sure you’re not sitting on the couch watching television.”

“What? Why can’t I watch television?”

“It’s a saturday night, elsie. Get up! Go out! I’d say you should come out with me but I’m going on a date with Jim.”

“So much for celibacy.”

“What? I’m not sleeping with him. I’m eating dinner with him.”

I laughed. “okay, well, I’m spending the night on my couch. I’m tired and sleepy and . . .”

“Tired and sleepy are the same thing. stop making excuses.”

“Fine. I’m lazy and I like being alone sometimes.”

“Good. at least you admitted it. I’ll call you tomorrow. Wish me luck keeping it in my pants.”

“You’ll need it.”


“Hey!” I said back.

“Okay, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”


With the phone in my hand, I ordered a pizza. When I called Georgie’s pizza to order it, the woman on the phone told me it would be an hour and half before it was delivered. When I asked why, all she said was “rain.” I told her I’d be there in a half hour to pick it up.

Walking into Georgie’s pizza, I felt nothing. no part of my brain or my body knew what was about to happen. I felt no premonition. I was wearing bright yellow galoshes and what can only be described as fat jeans. the rain had matted my hair to my face and I’d given up pushing it away.

I didn’t even notice Ben sitting there. I was far too involved with the minutiae of trying to buy a pizza. once the cashier told me it would be another ten minutes, I retired to the small bench in the front of the store, and it was then that I noticed there was another person in the same predicament.

My heart didn’t skip a beat. I had no idea he was “it”; it was “he.” He was the man I’d dreamed about as a child, wondering what my husband would look like. I was seeing this face I had wondered about my whole life and it was right here in front of me and I didn’t recognize it.all I thought was He’ll probably get his pizza before I get mine.

He looked handsome in a way that suggested he didn’t realize just how handsome he was. there was no effort involved, no self-awareness. He was tall and lean with broad shoulders and strong arms. His jeans were just the right shade of blue; his shirt brought out the gray in his green eyes. they looked stark against his brown hair. I sat down next to him and swatted my hair away from my forehead again. I picked up my phone to check my e-mail and otherwise distract myself from the waiting.

“Hi,” he said. It took me a second to confirm he was, in fact, speaking to me. that easily, my interest was piqued.

“Hi,” I said back. I tried to let it hang there, but I was bad with silence. I had to fill it. “I should have just had it delivered.”

“And miss all this?” he said, referencing the tacky faux-Italian decor with his hands. I laughed. “you have a nice laugh,” he said.

“Oh, stop it,” I said. I swear, my mother taught me how to take a compliment, and yet each time I was given one, I shooed it away like it was on fire. “I mean, thank you. that’s what you’re supposed to say. thank you.”

I noticed that I had subconsciously shifted my entire body toward him. I’d read all of these articles about body language and pupil dilation when people are attracted to each other, but whenever I got into a situation where it was actually useful (Are his pupils dilated? Does he like me?), I was always far too unfocused to take advantage.

“No, what you’re supposed to do is compliment me back,” he said, smiling. “that way I know where I stand.”

“Ah,” I said. “Well, it doesn’t really tell you much if I compliment you now, does it? I mean, you know that I’m complimenting you because you’ve asked . . .”

“Trust me, I can still tell.”

“All right,” I said, while I looked him up and down. as I made a show of studying him, he stretched out his legs and lengthened his neck. He pulled his shoulders back and puffed out his chest. I admired the stubble on his cheeks, the way it made him look effortlessly handsome. My eyes felt drawn to the strength of his arms. What I wanted to say was “you have great arms,” and yet, I didn’t have it in me. I played it safe.

“So?” he said.

“I like your shirt,” I said to him. It was a heathered gray shirt with a bird on it.

“Oh,” he said, and I could hear honest to God disappointment in his voice. “I see how it is.”

“What?” I smiled, defensively. “that’s a nice compliment.”