Portrait of a young woman who can't find her equal but tries hard anyways. Part of the Bar-room Portraits collection.
She sits at the front of the store, at a table, with her face to the window. Her eyes are glazed and empty like doughnut holes. Her body touches as little as possible: her feet are crossed, she's on her tip-toes, and she's sitting on the edge of her chair. She chain-smokes, too: she breathes like a smokestack. The smoke enlarges the fog of the room. Secretly she enjoys her watering, weeping eyes.
Her burning cigarette sits in her mouth while she grips her pen. She stares out above a blank piece of paper at the passers-by and daydreams about her childhood. She writes a childish story. The story seems to fit her mood. It excites her. It revives her. She reveres her story as a harrowing tale of her own heart. Reading it over and over, she corrects a letter now and then while doodling on the edges of her college-ruled paper. She's pouring herself right on to the page.
Her date last night is on her mind: the fast embrace of her cold-hearted lover and his curt good-bye in the morning. "He's never had better," she thinks, to calm herself. She'd tried to curl up with him after he went dead but he was out. He didn't want anything to do with her holding him and stole away to the edge of the bed for the night. "At least he was clean," she says optimistically. After he left she cleaned the sheets and made herself pancakes, her favorite breakfast. She's been heart-broken before by her lovers. Maybe, she thinks, she's just a poor judge of character.
A guy in a pullover and dirty pants comes up beside her and asks her a question about... something, she wasn't paying attention. She's honest to him--"What?"--but after he quickly introduces himself she talks about what she's thinking instead of answering his question. What's on her mind is the way that soft clothes feel. She worries out loud about injustice in the world. He nods faintly, as if his head were somewhere else.
The boy leaves her while she's thinking about her story and its potency. She wants to read it to someone to illuminate them, so the story will spill out her soul--which can take up to a month to convey traditionally--in one reading. She wants to share it with a competent man. If her next dumb love is like the one last night, though, he'll listen to her story, stay it's good, and then take her clothes off instead. "Maybe men just don't understand," she thinks. "There's got to be a reason."
She frets about the days gone by and regrets her position a little. She doesn't have too-high hopes but still no one seems to meet them. She packs up her baggage into her purse: her pen, her second pack of cigarettes, and her seventy-sheet college-ruled spiral-bound notebook. She drinks the remnants of her cold coffee and rests her hand heavily on the back of the chair. She needed to know that reality's still there. Supporting herself on the chair, she sighs as she swings her purse back on, steps outside, and squints into the noon sunlight.