The Goddess of Illicit Choices |
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The Goddess of Illicit Choices

For about a month now, my best friend Amanda has been exchanging one hundred texts a day with a man she met at a dinner party. It’s suddenly fall, and after I take my youngest to school, if work isn’t too heavy, I walk the dog with my headphones in my ears, talking to Amanda, who lives in my old neighborhood across town. Her new friend’s name is Scot. He’s long-married and has two kids in high school; Amanda is long-married and has one gifted and autistic 12-year-old son. I have two kids in middle and high school and am almost seven years divorced from a man I’ll call X. X and I are on good terms. A little friction, a lot of warmth.

Earlier this year, alarmed by reports of climate migration to our mid-size city, I scraped together enough to stop renting and buy a renovated ranch in a modest, nondescript neighborhood, and now I explore the neighborhood’s uninspiring crannies. There’s a weedy basketball court in one direction, a bowl-shaped park in another. Almost every house on my block flies an American flag, and one has a sign on the door that says GONE TO MENARDS. Within walking distance is a gas station, a pretty good Mexican place, a library, a Korean tailor. My neighbors on one side are a gay Black couple who occasionally text me late at night to tell me my garage door is open. On the other side is an older straight white couple who take long walks every day. They start out together, but by the time they return, she is half a block behind him, holding one hip.

The texts Amanda and Scot exchange are mostly playful, salted heavily with puns and double entendres and lightly with personal questions and flirty compliments. In the screenshots I’ve seen, I read his excitement for her — for sex, sure, but more for how she keeps him sharp.

Yesterday, she says, he showed a little vulnerability. She sends screenshots of their texts.

Amanda: Have you recovered from being told seventeen times how much I want to kiss you?

Scot: What you don’t yet know about me is that I’m a master disassociator.

Amanda: We don’t say master anymore. Now you’re a primary disassociator.

Scot: Did I irritate you yesterday?

Amanda: When and how? No.

Scot: When I was badgering you to tell me your favorite band and song and movie. I really want to know!

Amanda: My mind goes blank with that stuff but you didn’t irritate me.

Scot: I felt like I was being theatrical. Like the sidekick in a sitcom with a ready reply for anything. The Beatles! Hey Jude! The Godfather!

Amanda: The National! Candy by Iggy Pop! The Royal Tenenbaums!


Amanda and Scot have not so much as kissed yet, and she’s worried about spooking him before they cross a line. Potential lovers are, given her situation, few and far between.

She says to me, “So I woke up in the middle of the night with this realization—”

“I’m going to stop you right there,” I say.

Amanda, an easy laugh, laughs and laughs. This will be a rising bubble of joy in my long day. She tells me her epiphany anyway. “It’s Rabbithole all over again,” she says. “It’s not real.”

Rabbithole was a younger colleague, also married, whom she grew close to about seven years ago, when middle age revealed itself to be a plateau bleeding into the vanishing distance. It never went anywhere with Rabbithole, and after they stopped exchanging one hundred texts a day, he divorced and remarried and had twin boys.

What does it say about me that I believe that sometimes, under certain circumstances, finding love with someone you’re not married to is an act of bravery? What does it say about our friendship that although I am ardently honest in my own life, I will do whatever I can to help Amanda get what she wants? Our lives are our own to ruin, to burn down in a blaze or lace with lightning bolts of pleasure.

“I’m afraid he’s walking it back,” she says. Some of his texts feel thin and obligatory. Yesterday, after she told him to have a beautiful day, he responded, U 2.

“There are so many reasons for him to not proceed,” I tell Amanda. “Really good reasons that have nothing to do with you. Let him wrestle. How can he not?”

Amanda is beautiful and wise and sexy and charming. She has a lot of freckles everywhere, even on the backs of her pale hands, and fine, naturally blond hair that curls at the ends, and years ago she started wearing her bangs in that very short way that looks hip, though she complains that they don’t lay right if she doesn’t use a straight iron. She has keen green eyes and a heart-shaped face and ten different laughs, including a snorty giggle that is all her own. She’s a little androgynous in a badass way. If I saw her on the street, I would be attracted not just to her looks but also to her swagger, which verges on imperiousness.

“I’m so confused,” she says, meaning not about her own intentions but about Scot’s.

“If neither of you were married, it wouldn’t be confusing at all,” I said. But I’m not married anymore, and when is there ever zero doubt?

“That’s insightful,” says Amanda, by which she means it’s true but irrelevant.


Amanda’s husband, Marcus, is a VP at the healthcare software company that put our town on the biotech map; from the outside, they are a power couple. I happen to know that she and Marcus have had sex once this year, a fifty percent decrease from last year. She doesn’t love him anymore, and she doesn’t think much about whether he still loves her. She’s over marriage, she says. It’s snake oil and the gig is up. Still, twice a week they sit together on their back deck, chatting about the day and making weekend plans.

Heartsickness has been my and Amanda’s shared language for thirteen years, since we met in an infant CPR class when we were both pregnant. A year ago, I was dumped by my first-ever girlfriend, whom I’ll call Y. Y left me for a pretty union organizer named Layla who told Y that she hadn’t lived until she’d ridden a gravel bike. When Y told me about Layla, she also told me they were leaving the next day to go camping together, so Y and I needed to “reify” our heretofore monogamous relationship, stat. Clarity was not Y’s strong suit. I said, “Are you saying you want to be poly?” X had been polyamorous since our divorce. I didn’t want it, but I understood it, and I didn’t want to lose Y, almost entirely because I didn’t want to lose my nascent lesbianism. Y looked at me pityingly and said, “The thing is, Layla isn’t sure she wants to be poly.”

Dating women has felt so right in every way, except for a few instances of blithe, unacknowledged cruelty, which have surprised me.

“Did you just say that?” I said to Y, who I thought loved me.

“What?” she said.

Amanda bellowed me back to life after Y. “Y sucks. Take what she gave you and leave the rest,” she said, referring to my rainbow-colored future.

After Y, I dated Nadine, Gretchen, Fiona, Margie, Dani, Lucinda, Joyce, Naomi, and two Amys. I told myself I was earning my chops, and then at some point I had them firmly in hand. I no longer worry about whether I’m good in bed with women — I am — and I no longer worry that I don’t like it quite enough, as was the case with Y. I really, really like it. A lot.

Sometimes things end naturally, and sometimes I make an uncomfortable phone call or take an uncomfortable walk, and once I received a text that said, You don’t pay enough attention to me. Peace out. That was Fiona.

And for nine heady weeks, in the eye of my ladystorm, there was Z.


Amanda is starting to breathe heavily. While I stroll with my coffee and my sniffing dog, Amanda rollerblades a four-mile loop along our bigger lake and up a hill to the coffee shop where we used to go together. She talks loudly over the wind, and people look twice as she passes them, which she likes. When she gets home, she’ll feed her son’s iguana, grab a banana, and bike to work. It’s mid-October and a sunny, pleasant cold. The maple leaves plastered against the sidewalk look like craft-store versions of themselves. In the daytime you can go out on the lake in your kayak with a woman you’ve been seeing, and when you look in the mirror that night, your cheeks will be pink.

With these morning walks I’m learning the neighborhood at the level of the cracks in the sidewalks, the interesting bulbs on the tree trunks, the tidy gardens shorn in preparation for the first snow. Above the many-colored treeline there is a full morning moon, dusty and wizened.

“Can you see the moon?” I ask Amanda.

“Wait. Yes, it’s there. Oh my!”

“I know!”

I send a group text to my brother and his husband in California and my father in Miami: Check out the moon this morning? To my dead mother, I think, Look at the moon!

I am not alone.


There’s something else,” Amanda says now. Last night, after she told Scot she was muting her phone to make dinner for her family, she received six rapid messages.

“He’s not following protocol,” she says to me.

“I don’t understand.”

Evenings and weekends are family time, she says. She is assuming, as someone who has given up on monogamy, that this is understood.

“Texts can wait,” I say.

“I felt like there’s subtext.”

“What kind?”

“Either ‘You’re mine’ or ‘There’s nothing to this so why be careful.’”

“I don’t think it means either of those things. I think it means he wanted to ask you questions and was willing to wait for your answers.”

“Or maybe it was a joke?” she says. “Like, Oh you have to go, just six more questions . . .”

“There’s a lot we don’t know,” I say. My brother is a relationship therapist, and this is one of his lines. Another is, “Bear your discomfort.” After Z dumped me (in a text that read, I’ve decided you’re not right for me), my brother said, “People can’t give what they don’t have. Z just saved you a lot of time and heartache.”

There’s no way to know if this is true, but it has never felt true.

Weeks after Z, I went back to dating like it was my job. I told Amanda that I was like a shark that will die if it stops swimming, and she said, “Except the shark is a middle-age mother divorced from a man, and the swimming is going on dates with women.”

Amanda and Scot have met twice to take a walk in the middle of a weekday. Amanda worries over forgetting to delete her texts and Scot forgetting to delete his, but I think these weekday walks are far more damning. But so far, no one is watching them, except me.

She long ago weighed the pros and cons and decided to stay in her marriage. This means that being found out isn’t the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is that Scot’s wife takes the dynamite out of Amanda’s hands and sets it off herself.

“Maybe he’s a little confused,” I say. “Who wouldn’t be? This is scary shit.”

“He wouldn’t be if it were not his first rodeo,” she says. This is not her first rodeo. That was Shawn, a work colleague. Also married, also lonely.

“That’s not necessarily true,” I say.

“Do you think he’s done it before?”

To me, he reads as enthusiastic but cautious. “I’d be guessing based on very little, but I think maybe he’s considered it but never crossed the line.”

“But he’s our age!” she says.

“I know,” I say. But there are people our age who are in long, not-unhappy marriages. Just not very many of them.


Back when I was still dating men after my marriage ended, which I did briefly in an obliging way before realizing — hallelujah! — I was not obliged at all, I met an online date on a street corner, and he looked me up and down and said, “I’m tired of women lying about their weight on their profiles.” My pictures were recent, a mix of face pics and body pics — had I misrepresented myself?

I’ve never had a conversation with a woman where suddenly I didn’t know my own body and mind. If this isn’t enough reason to stop dating men, I’m not sure what is. Also the curve of a breast makes my mouth water, and three times after having sex with a woman for the first time, I’ve dozed against her without thinking twice about whether I might snore or her arm might fall asleep.

Later on that same Last Man date (can you believe it went on from there?) the guy — whose name I can honestly say I don’t recall; ditto his unexceptional face — told me he’d been 1L at Harvard when Barack Obama was 3L, and then he said, “One L means—” and I held up my hand and told him I lived on planet Earth and anyhow there’s adequate context.

How do you know if someone went to Harvard Law? The same way you’ll know if he thinks you’re a fat liar!

Amanda has always had a sixth sense about my attraction to women. More than once, before I was out to myself, she’d mention an acquaintance and say something like, “I can see you with her.” If she’d expressed even the faintest surprise, would I have hesitated or stumbled? Because I’ve aimed toward women with an exuberance and surety typically associated with youth. But really it’s the exuberance and surety of a woman who has worried too much about other people’s opinions, and too often wondered if all she knew was all there was.


Not since Z have I exchanged a hundred texts a day with anyone.

Once, Z sent a text that said You are sooooooo amazing, and once she sent a text that said I can’t believe how lucky I am to have met you, and once she sent a text that said I am nowhere near your neighborhood . . ., and once she sent a text asking if I’d walk the Camino de Santiago with her, and I said yes and then looked up the Camino de Santiago. I cannot wait to walk the Camino de Santiago with you, I wrote, and she gave that message a heart.

Excitement = fun + fear, I remind my children, but sometimes the portions get wonky.

Once, Z and I laughed so hard I stopped the car in the middle of the street to keep from crashing. Once in bed we laughed so hard that my nose started running and I smeared snot all over her beautiful belly. Once she said she loved how I cry when I laugh, and it was the first time in my life I didn’t wipe away those laughing tears in mild embarrassment. Once we lay naked together and I told her things about myself I didn’t like, and things I’d done that I wasn’t proud of. There was something between us that was safe and thrilling and very precious all at the same time, a mix I’d never felt before.

I wrote back after her final text, asking to speak either by FaceTime or in person, assuming naively that we could come to some sad but caring and humane parting of ways — and never heard back. No sorry, no goodbye. Amanda tells me this isn’t ghosting, not technically, but I can’t manage the effort required to parse the distinction. Whatever it was, it made me feel worthless. An inconvenience, a nuisance. Left alone on a scorched island, haunted by memories of all that lush splendor.

In middle age, it’s sacrilege to wish for a failing memory. I will not do it.


We take a break from analyzing Scot so Amanda can tell me about her son’s new occupational therapist, a trans man who has a PhD in Italian translation and is teaching Lionel to ride a skateboard to work on balance. In a pause, she says, “My knees have started popping when I go up the stairs.”

“But not when you go down?” I say.

“They ache when I go down.”

We keep a running list of activities that make us feel old. Lifting weights, stadium concerts, early flights, loud restaurants, weddings. Going to the dentist is a big one for me. Teeth are all about irreversible decay. My father’s teeth are worn yellow nubs, more oval than rectangular, and every time I catch sight of them, I’m reminded that he will die soon. He turned eighty this year.

Today’s yoga term is sidebody, I tell Amanda. Every week or so, I give her a yoga term — I do yoga, she doesn’t — that she has to use as naturally as possible in a sentence, preferably with someone outside of her own family. Once, in a meeting with a white male colleague, a dude who has a tendency to step on the ends of everyone’s sentences and once said that he didn’t consider himself to be yelling simply because he raised his voice and slammed a hand on the table to make something perfectly clear, she said, “I’m concerned we aren’t shining our heart-centers at this solution.” Her colleague set his jaw in a display of forbearance and moved on. “Namaste,” she said at the end of the meeting, for good measure.

Sometimes we shout, “Let me make something perfectly clear!” to each other, then stomp around like children.

“That’s easy,” says Amanda now. “My sidebody hurts because I haven’t been using my corebody or my backbody.”


She sighs. “What’s the percentage chance that if I push things he’ll disappear? I should play it cool, right?”

I have a hard time with games. Has this hurt me romantically? Of course it has.

“Less than twenty-five percent. But I think there’s value in letting him set the tone and seeing what he chooses.”

“You mean playful or personal or sexy?”

“Exactly.” We will hope for personal or sexy, but he will choose playful, of course. Every damn time.

“I’m trying too hard. It’s a turn off. He’s realizing I’m not worth ruining his life over.”

From what I can tell, this man is clinging to Amanda’s life-affirming texts almost as tightly as she is clinging to his. But not everyone wants to save themselves quite as badly as we do.

“You’re life-ruiningly great,” I say. “But that doesn’t mean he wants to ruin his life.”

“You’re a good friend,” says Amanda.


On our fourth date, Z and I met on my side of town at a Belgian pub. It was storming and I was sitting at the bar when she came in. I turned around to greet her, and she said, “I love how happy you are to see me,” and I said, “I am so happy to see you!” And then we kissed as deeply as two adults can semi-respectably kiss in public, and then we ate burgers and talked. After dinner, we made out in my car.

It doesn’t matter anymore, but I have to tell you that there was something about the kissing. It wasn’t just that time and space ceased to exist, along with breath, because that happened when we talked, texted, once when we watched TV together. It was something else, an egoless wormhole sensation — OK, that’s overstating it, but what I’m saying is that when we kissed, I wanted never to stop.

That night, she pulled away to catch her breath, and sometimes when I think of her now, I think of the look on her face in that moment. I’d like to say it was astonishment or excitement, but given what happened, it was most likely fear. What I saw in our future was calm and supportive and genuine and lasting. What did she see?

If I were a person who scares easily, those kisses might have sent me running, too.

After we parted ways that night, I texted her: I can’t believe we made out in in a restaurant! She wrote back, Those kisses! and sent three flame emojis.

Before Z, I had a go-to song for kitchen dancing or house cleaning or driving at night with my windows down, and there’s a line in the song that says, Don’t even try and ex-plain how it’s so diff-er-ent when we kiss . . .

What I’m saying is that it was different when we kissed. I don’t listen to that song anymore.

The Belgian pub closed permanently a few months later. Z had erased me by then, and my first thought when I heard the news was to text her. (I did not.) My second thought was that everything I touch dies. My third thought was that going forward I would be spared the memory-trigger of that evening — the rain, the kissing, the laughter, the look of fear on her breathtaking face.


When I told Amanda that I’ll never again have with anyone the connection that came so naturally with Z, she frowned and said, “You think?” Which was her way of saying I was being melodramatic and also that I was wrong.

“Maybe someday I’ll find ninety-three percent of it,” I said.

“The seven percent will be more than made up for by the fact that the new woman will acknowledge your existence,” said Amanda.

Had I gotten wobbly with Z the way Amanda has with Scot? Yes. Once as I was getting dressed, I caught her glance at my body and couldn’t read her expression. “Pink,” she said about my bra. Was this approval or disapproval or something else? For what it’s worth — zilch! bupkis! — I adored every inch of her, every mole and freckle and dimple and stretch mark, the curves of her ears, her sturdy ankles, her ladykiller grin. The pleasing topography of her breasts under her ironic t-shirts, her clean trim fingernails, the whites of her eyes when she rolled them at herself, the way her lids reddened when she started to cry, the aging skin at her neck, her warm eyes. “You are so beautiful,” I told her more than once, when words failed me. What I meant was: You are magnetic and glorious and I cherish you. It wasn’t just her beautiful face and body or our unmoderated kisses — it was how she resurrected my belief in Big Love.

Once, I asked Z about her hardest-ever breakup and she told me — Clara, who moved to take care of her aging parents — and I thought, petulantly and nonsensically, I want to be your hardest-ever breakup. But I didn’t. She had a teeming stable of exes and I did not want to join them. With Z, I could see the vanishing distance, not a plateau but a series of gentle hills, a canopy of bright sunlight interrupted by clouds. Shining starlight, intermittent fog, flashes of hard rain, every sunrise, a last sunset.


Scot usually replies to Amanda’s first text of the day after he’s left the house but before he’s arrived at work — the soonest safe moment. But yesterday he didn’t reply until lunchtime. “Do you think he’s having second thoughts?” says Amanda now. It’s not the first time she’s asked, and I wish I knew the answer.

“It probably means work is busy.”

“Or his wife found out.”


“Or he changed his mind.”

“It’s possible,” I say. People change their minds all the time. Changing your mind, says my therapist brother, is always allowed. It’s how you do it that makes the difference.

The moon is high and hazy now. Amanda says “Douchebag!” and tells me that some runner dude in a neon green muscle tank just clipped her shoulder and she almost went down.

“Phew!” I say. “Maybe Scot needs you to be more assertive.”


She puffs a little while and I turn away from the wind. My dog stops to pee. I miss my old neighborhood, particularly the short walk to Amanda’s.

“Maybe I won’t be,” she says.

“To see what happens?”

“No. Maybe I’ll just stop.” She sounds tired.

“Can you?” I say.

“I don’t think so.”


Z and I went on six dates over the course of eight weeks — she was out of town for three weeks in the middle — and we slept together twice in the afternoon, both times at my house. Once, on her living room couch, I sat on her lap and smothered her with kisses, but I never saw the inside of her bedroom.

Three days before she dumped me, I picked her up from work at lunchtime and drove to a swimming pond outside of the city. It was late June and we were the only ones there. We swam to a floating dock and lay on the sun-warmed wood. She propped up to look me in the eye.

“I have a few questions,” she said, touching the neckline of my swimsuit. “I need to feel comfortable before we do this.”

“Before we’re a couple, you mean?” I said.


“Ask me anything.”

“I’m afraid I won’t always be able to be myself with you,” she said.

“Are you yourself now?”

“Yes, more or less. More and more.”

“I’m not interested in whoever else you think you need to be. Leave her home.”

“How can you be sure?”

I shielded her face from the sun with my hand and her blue eyes relaxed. How I adored even the slightest of her smiles. Her lips. The smudge of pink on her cheeks. Her front teeth and her back ones.

“I might not be so gaga for you forever,” I said. “But I’ll always treat you with love and respect.”

“That works for me.”


“This one’s not too different. What happens after the blush is off the rose?”

“Are you asking if I’ll get tired of you?”

“Yes. And if you’ll start getting annoyed by me.”

“Yes, I’ll be annoyed with you once a year, maybe twice. And I’ll handle it the way I always handle it with people I love – by reminding myself that I’m the luckiest human on the planet.”


“If I liked you for the blush not the rose, that’d be pretty naive. I know blushes fade. Mine will fade, too.”

She said, “Will you always bake me cookies when I’m sad, or was that just an early-days thing?”

“I’ll bake you cookies for the rest of your life.”

“Good answer,” she said slowly, like each word was its own sentence.

I could see those cookies. I could smell and taste them. My palm cupped her upper thigh and hers pressed against my low back. Did she think I was prone to speculating about the distant future? (I was not.) Maybe she was beset at all times by women offering her the moon, and I was just one more smitten suitress.

She ran a finger over my lips and I parted them to let her in. This went on for a while.

“You make my heart pound,” I said.

“Will we rely on each other without suffocating each other? Will we get busy in our lives and neglect each other? That’s two questions, sorry.”

Suffocate, maybe. But neglect? Ha!

I said, “Being together will make our lives calmer, more joyful, more meaningful, sunnier and snowier, and even a little tastier.”


“A hundred ways. I’ll help rake your yard before the first snow, and I’ll bring you coffee when you’re having trouble waking up, and I’ll listen while you recount your dreams, because I know you need to get them out.”

“I’ll only recount the juicy ones. What else?”

“I’ll drive when you’re tired and turn down the volume when you have a headache and give you advice when you want it and keep my mouth shut when you don’t. When you snap at me, I’ll make funny faces at you until you laugh. I’ll listen to songs you love and love them too, and when you need me or even kind of need me a little bit, I’ll be there.”

“What will I do for you?”

I thought, but not for long. “Ask me about my day, please. Like regularly, even daily if it’s not asking too much.”

“It’s not. That’s easy.”

“Really? No one else has ever seemed to think so!”

This made her laugh a little. Directly into my ear, she whispered, “I’m in.”

We dozed, facing each other, then raced back to shore. She won. That night on video chat, we showed each other our weird sunburns: her left side and my right side, two halves of two wholes.


Amanda’s theory is that Z got back together with her ex. But Z had described that relationship as full of contempt and unkindness, and who in her right mind would exit my warm, eager heart for that?

When Z asked her questions, I read it as due diligence. I didn’t see it for what it was: fear. Should I have answered differently? Should I have tried to play it cool? Sometimes red flags look very much like green flags, and I think it’s asking a lot of a person to spot the difference.

In the months since she scorched our paradise, I’ve sent Z three longish emails, all meant to be casual and friendly, asking for nothing but contact. She did not respond. I told Amanda after the first email that I felt like a stalker and she said, “Don’t say that. Stalking is a real and scary thing, and you attempting to politely access someone who disappeared overnight is not remotely in the same ballpark.”

After the second email, Amanda said, “Please remember that lack of discouragement is not encouragement.”

When humans communicate, there’s usually a feedback loop, and when there’s not, the silence is terrible. It’s not being left that hurts the most; it’s being erased. She became my phantom limb, and I became her – what? Toilet paper stuck to the sole of her shoe.

After the third email, Amanda said never to send Z another word. “Listen to me. Listen,” she said. “You are not in a movie. You are not in a novel. This is not cute. Picture her rolling her eyes and deleting your heartfelt words as soon as your name hits her inbox. Worse, picture her reading them aloud in a mocking voice to her best friend.”

Amanda and I would never do this, and I don’t think Z would, either. Still.

“Thank you so much,” I said to Amanda.


It smells like patchouli in here,” Amanda tells me after ordering her latte. “At least I think it’s patchouli. It might be body odor. It might be my body odor.”

Early this morning, after thinking about it for weeks, I removed Z from my social media followers and myself from hers. Then I replied to work emails while calmly weeping.

Now, I tell Amanda, “I disconnected from Z online.”

Amanda is not on social media. “Did she get an alert?”


“Are you sure?”

“Yes. She won’t know unless she checks.”

“I approve, but why?”

“So my brain stops thinking she’s someone I know. She’s not. She doesn’t want to be.”

“You’re strong,” says Amanda.

I press my back against a tree and close my eyes. My neighborhood smells of wet leaves and cinnamon. Someone is running a leaf blower but it’s not close enough to bother me. It seems like every other headline is about how to carve a pumpkin to make it last longer, and I can’t understand why we need pumpkins to last longer. I almost could have stayed fake-friends with Z forever, gobbling up her digital crumbs. I don’t want to be strong anymore.

“Do you want to stop?” I ask Amanda, meaning Scot.

“It’s the right thing, yes?”

I don’t know anything about Scot’s wife or marriage, their children, their shared dreams and disappointments. I know Marcus and I like him, but I gave up on pushing couples therapy years ago.

“No,” I say. “You’re not the goddess of illicit choices.”

“You should make t-shirts that say that,” says Amanda.

We like to think that we have some control over the world outside of ourselves, and also that we are only mostly in control of ourselves. Neither is true.

I say, “Do you think it’s possible Z will come back in a year?”

“Would that make it easier now?”


“Set a reminder for October 13 of next year to send a note asking if you can buy her coffee.”

I hunch over my screen. “Done,” I say.

She draws a breath. “Here we go.”

“He texted?”

“Oh yeah,” she says. “He wants to meet for lunch.”

“Tell me what he said exactly.”

‘I think we need to talk. Lunch? One o’clock at Sardine?’”

“Holy moly,” I say.

She’s alert but cautious. This text is potentially good news and potentially bad news. We won’t know which until they’re in a room together, two fleshy bodies and moving mouths full of warm breath and words. The wild, messy, exquisite promise of an unknowable future.

Looking forward to it, writes Amanda.


Susanna Daniel is the author of the novels Stiltsville and Sea Creatures, as well as the as-yet-unpublished Battersea Road. She's currently revising a fourth novel, Girlfriending, which grew directly from this short story.

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