Oh PLEASE.  Says the man to the woman.  Oh PLEASE.

What? she replies.

He stirs his melted ice cream with a metal spoon.  The waiter returns with the card printout and a pen from another restaurant and gives the check to the wrong person.

Thank you, says the waiter to their profiles.


Someone removes the melted ice cream bowl.  There are little droplets congealing on the placemat, white-yellow.

Add a tip.  Sign the name.  Flourish.  Take the yellow slip and leave the white one.  Put it in the coat pocket.  Get up.  Locate the rest of the coat under the seat; slide it on.  Button all four buttons.  Flip the collar.

Thank you, says the maitre d’ before the door that leads outside.

The man: straight ahead, no response.  The woman: nods.  Rolls a toothpick out of the turning plastic toothpick holder.

On the street the air is fifty knives of cold.  This is not Alaska.  Why did we move here?  I thought it would be warmer here, one of them thinks.  The weather reports say records are breaking, daily; usually it’s balmy this time of year.  Some of the kids are building sleds, hopeful.

Her collar up around her ears.  His hands deep in his pockets.  She is walking slower, toothpicking, and finally stops.  He keeps going, swift.  Each of his lower teeth is nestled in line with its upper neighbor.

She sees a window full of coats.  For every season.  She is all coat right now.  Fake fur collar and deep wool pockets.  Inside her pockets, you can find lipstick, some tissue, a restaurant yellow slip, and several candy wrappers.  Soon, a used toothpick.  Inside his coat pockets are a folded-up piece of notebook paper, two old mints, keys, a five dollar bill, a smooth stone.  Inside the coats in the window, all the pockets are empty.  She is dreaming into them.  How strange it would be to have a coat with empty pockets.  You could spend a whole lifetime and put nothing in them, ever, hands without obstruction, obligation, memory.

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Aimee Bender

About Aimee Bender

Aimee Bender received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at San Diego, and a Master of Fine Arts from the distinguished creative writing MFA program at University of California at Irvine. Her first book was The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, a collection of short stories, published in 1998. The book was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book of 1998 and spent seven weeks on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. Her novel An Invisible Sign of My Own was published in 2000, and was named as an L.A. Times pick of the year. In 2005 she published another collection of short stories, Willful Creatures, which was nominated by The Believer magazine, owned by McSweeney's, as one of the best books of the year. Her novella The Third Elevator was published in 2009 by Madras Press.[1] Her novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake was published in 2010 by Doubleday.