corner, as I turn, I glance back and see her. Finally Iâm around a corner waiting.
Sarah turns and there I am staring at her.
âOh,â she says, taking several steps back, looking away. âOh.â
âHmmm,â I say.
âI,â she begins, looking at me briefly, slipping her hands under the straps of her backpack, resting her left foot on the curb.
âYou,â I say, mocking her. She blushes and looks down.
âI was . . .â
To increase Sarahâs discomfort I continue to stare at her.
âI was going to . . . ,â Sarah says. âI was just . . .â
Sarah hasnât found the rest of her sentence yet, so I give it to her: âYou were just following me?â
âYes,â she says, incurably honest. âI wanted to see where you live.â
âWhy?â I ask. Sheâs still not looking at me.
âI heard that heâd come visit you.â She slides her right hand out from under the backpack strap, wipes it on her skirt, and then slips it under again. âI wanted to see.â
âTo see what? Him with me? Heâs dead, remember?
Sarah shakes her head, her heavy loose curls swaying.
Sheâs still looking down.
âWhat did you want to see, Sarah? The outside of my apartment building? The inside? My bedroom?â
She looks up. Her eyes are wide and wet. âYes,â she says. âNo. Maybe. I donât know. I didnât think it all the way through.â
âCome on,â I say, turning on my heel. I am tempted to run flat out and leave her in my wake. Instead I march fast up Second Avenue. She has to scurry to keep pace.
âYour desk is so big,â Sarah Washington says, looking around. âItâs bigger than your bed.â
Itâs not that the desk is big, more that the room is small. In any other city in America it would be a closet, not a bedroom. The desk, the chair, the bed, the crate beside it are the only furniture. I sit down on the bed, cross my legs underneath me. I prefer to sit on the floor, but Sarah is standing on the only floor space.
She picks up the silver packet of tiny pills by my bed, holds them in her hand and stares at them, then holds the packet out to me. Her eyes are too wet. A tear leaks out and then another. I wonder what itâs like crying so easily.
âYou were sleeping with him, werenât you?â
âTheyâre for my skin,â I tell her.
âYour skin?â She drops them back on the crate as if they might contaminate her. âYou take birth control pills for your skin ?â
I nod. Itâs odd how often telling the truth feels like lying and lying like the truth. âI have acne. When I take those pills I donât have acne. You can look it up.â
âSo you never slept with him?â she asks, emphasizing each word.
I hadnât said that. âNo,â I answer.
âThen why do you have his sweater?â she asks, much louder this time. She squeezes past my bed to where it hangs on the back of my desk chair. She holds it to her nose. She can smell him, too. Her eyes leak more water. She better not cry on the sweater.
âI was cold.â I am never cold.
I only let Sarah into my room to stop her from bothering me. Sheâs one of those people who cannot let things be. I thought about hiding the sweater. I thought, too, about wearing the sweater. But I donât want to lose his smell.
âPut it down,â I tell her.
She does. I can smell salty fear on her. She is afraid of me. She is afraid of everything.
âI donât have anything of his,â she says. âNot one thing.â
âWhat about the chain around your neck?â Itâs thin and gold. It would be easy to break. âOr that ring on your finger. He gave you those.â
âHe bought them. They donât . . .â Sarah trails off, glances at the sweater again. âThey werenât ever his .â