By Liz Moore

Oh it was all too much for them.  Dinner beforehand — Marv said let’s pick a place we know from home, the Olive Garden, T.G.I.Friday’s, but Mim said no, a new place, anyplace, please — and now a show, one with old-fashioned costumes and a spotlight that followed the leading man around the stage while in the background his castmates froze, still as trees, feigning invisibility, until the song was over.  Think they get stiff up there? Marv whispered to Mim, and she knuckled his leg and held one angry finger to her lips.  I’m just saying, Marv whispered again.

It was too much — too much.  Mim had a feeling inside her like a train approaching.  She was seventy last week.  She had seen plays before, but she had never seen anything like this.  Never up close.  The theater was huge, a palace, with little white lights lining the aisles and a ceiling that was painted like the sky.  She became very still, and a tear fell down her cheek when the leading lady sang her final song.  She’ll die, she’ll die, thought Mim, without breathing; she’s going to die!  Sure enough, one scene later, dead on the ground.  And so pretty, too — wearing a blue dress that came to her ankles, with little black shoes beneath. The skirt swung heavily when she danced and formed a pool about her when she fell to the floor in her final scene.  Mim had made a dress like that for Sherry once when Sherry was a girl, six years old, wanting a Cinderella costume for Halloween.  Sherry would look lovely onstage too, thought Mim, though she was never much of a singer.  The leading lady came out with everyone else afterward and bowed twice, and twice again. Then the curtain parted in the middle and the lady walked out, alone this time, not scared at all, and received a bouquet from a man who climbed up the stairs at the side of the stage.  Red roses.  Two dozen or more.  She’s alive!  It’s a miracle! said Marv.  He was always joking, but this time it didn’t matter how loud he was, because everyone around them was clapping.  Oh Marv, said Mim.

*   *   *

In her purse was a camera for taking pictures of Sherry and Sherry’s new boyfriend — maybe even Sherry’s apartment, if she invited them — along with a tube of lipstick that Mim was going to apply in the bathroom on their way out.  Now don’t get too excited, said Marv; you always get too excited.  Also a change purse, and a wallet, and a small pack of tissues, and her reading glasses and a comb.  And something called Mr. Cheap’s Guide to New York, which Marv had insisted on getting back in Utah, and a prepaid, disposable cell phone — she had not known such things existed — that they would share to keep in touch with Sherry, who had said that visiting New York without a cell phone would be a recipe for disaster.  But so far New York had been better than she could have expected.  Only eight hours since they had landed at the airport, only six since they had checked into their hotel, and already they had befriended the young couple staying in the room next to theirs on the way down in the elevator, and a taxi driver who told them that the best place to go for cheap shopping was Canal Street.  Mim wanted sunglasses and a scarf, and Marv wanted a wallet he could fit all his cards in — he joined organizations compulsively; the library, the AARP, AAA, USAA — along with stamps and the photos he had of Sherry at ages four, ten and seventeen.  Where’s Canal Street? Mim had asked Sherry, when they called her earlier from their hotel phone.  Sherry had said she would show them on a map.

They were shuffling out of the theater now, one foot in front of the other.  Two thin young women pushed past her on the right, saying silly things to each other breathlessly.  Because, because, said one, you love him!  And the other nearly fell apart laughing.

This was New York.

Last week, out to dinner on Mim’s birthday, Marv had presented her with two plane tickets in a Hallmark card that said: To My Loving Wife. Just for the weekend, he said, because did she know how expensive hotels in New York were?

She had phoned Sherry when they got home and asked her if she knew what her father had done.  Yes, said Sherry, and my present to you guys is tickets to a Broadway show.

With you? asked Mim.  Could you come too?

Sherry had said she wished she could, but work was killing her, and Fridays were hard.  She said they could all meet up afterward and go out together.  She’d show them the city on Saturday and Sunday.  Think about what you guys want to do, she said.

Maybe your new friend can come out with us, said Mim.  After the show on Friday.

He might, Sherry had said.  But let me double-check.

Mim had spent the week packing and repacking.  She had called Sherry twice more than was necessary: once to ask about the weather, and once to ask about what people wore to Broadway shows.

*   *   *

Outside the theater Mim was surprised by how light it was, still, at eleven o’clock.  There were men selling things everywhere.  A policeman on a horse.  A man on a bicycle with a little carriage behind it that could fit two people comfortably.  Look, Marv! she said, and he said, A bicycle built for three! Then he was bumped forcefully by a man who walked past them in a rage, shouting about the teachers he had had as a boy, how they picked on him, how they all called him names.  Well, said Marv, excuse me. He rubbed his shoulder where the man had made contact.  He would sulk for a while; he was as unforgiving as a child.  Give me that phone, Marv, said Mim.  It was eleven o’clock  already, and time to call Sherry.

It was so loud in Times Square that she couldn’t even tell if the phone was ringing.  She couldn’t hear anything on the other end, though she plugged one ear and dove through the crowd for a nook in the building behind her, so she could stand facing it.  Sherry? she said, but then from behind her she heard Marv cry, There she is! and she spun around to look.  There she was, Sherry, walking toward them with her arms folded and her shoulders up by her ears, looking down at the ground and then, every tenth step or so, up at them; weaving in and out of the crowd gracefully, shorter than average but noticeable, striking, a real stand-out.  There she is! Marv said again.

She had a short haircut now, and she was wearing her after-work clothes, flats and jeans and a T-shirt with writing on it.  As she got closer Mim saw it said Grandview Elementary, and she took a deep breath in happiness — it was the school Sherry had gone to as a child in Provo.  She had kept it all these years.  Who could have known she would?  She was a mystery to Mim, sly as a doe since early childhood, all of her actions furtive and therefore special and dear.

Marv was hugging her hard, his great arms pinning both of hers to her side.  Hi, sweetheart! he said.  She’s too skinny, he said, to Mim.  Isn’t she too skinny?

Part Two

Sherry told them that her new boyfriend was going to meet them at the Carnegie Deli.  Mim was delighted; everything was going right.  For a piece of late-night pie! she said, and Sherry said, Cheesecake.  Not pie.

Marv said, Boyfriend? Boyfriend? I should have brought my shotgun!, which wasn’t right, didn’t make sense, but Mim understood that he had been waiting to say it for years.

They had never before met a boyfriend of Sherry’s.  Her senior year of high school there was a boy who called a great deal, and once, when they were on campus at BYU, a very eager young man had walked quickly toward Sherry, and had introduced himself to them as if he thought they would know his name.  Sherry had been unkind to him, had nearly pushed him away.

But Sherry was older now: twenty-seven.  It was different.  They were in New York; she had invited them there.  She was inviting them to meet a special friend of hers.  It meant something.  This, and the warm air, and the crush of people around her made Mim feel heady and alive, though it was very late for them.  Normally they were asleep by ten, but she didn’t care. The lights in Times Square made it look like mid-afternoon; she was ready for anything.  The train inside her whistled.  She felt younger and stronger than she had in years.  She felt thrilling and thrilled.  A little shiver of joy ran up her when she caught the eye of a man on the street.  She wondered why she had waited so long in life to do any real traveling; imagined going other places, too — to Europe.  She had ideas about Paris and Rome.  She was seventy a week ago.  Seventy years, most of them spent in one small city.  A waste, a waste.

The whole of New York seemed to wrap itself tightly around her, the buildings that loomed above her to beam down upon her.  Everything in the world was swollen.  Did Marv feel it?  Sherry did, she felt sure — Sherry had always.  So this is what’s been keeping her here, thought Mim, and forgave her spontaneously for an offense she had never before allowed herself to register.

Sherry had lived here for five years, but she’d always come home at Christmas except this past one, spending it instead with a friend in Connecticut, saying she was too poor to afford the airfare.  But we’ll pay for it, honey! Mim had told her on the phone.  Of course we’ll pay for it! Sherry had declined the offer, saying she’d already told her friend’s parents that she’d be there, and besides, she was so busy with work that she wouldn’t be much fun.

She was walking ahead of Mim now, and Marv was on her heel, saying things to her, taking a running step every few to catch up.  He looked silly, like a boy, and Mim noticed for the first time that he was favoring his right leg over his left.  He was exerting himself too much.  She would ask him about it later.  She allowed herself to drift back, just a little — she did not want to be lost — and looked up at the buildings above her, and imagined, inside them, older versions of Sherry.  The lit windows, the unlit ones — there were people who lived in those apartments.  People were doing things in the light and in the dark that excited Mim.  She felt feverish with joy.  Ahead of her, Marv and Sherry dodged a man wheeling a vendor’s cart full of roasted nuts.  Four different kinds, it said.  They had nothing like that at home, nobody selling things to you from carts.  Would Sherry live here all her life?  Probably, yes.  Probably she would never come back to Provo.

*   *   *

At the Carnegie Deli, waiters were shuttling meals around, quick and efficient as spiders.  On their trays were sandwiches that looked to Mim like food for the week, and those obscene pieces of cheesecake, sodden with cherries or liquid chocolate.  The room was long and bright, with a counter to the left and tables in the back.  Signed pictures of celebrities covered every inch of the wall.  Most of the tables were full, even at this time of night.  They stood near the door.  Where’s Howie, dear? asked Mim, and Sherry said, Not here yet.  Well, we’re just so excited to meet him, said Mim.  Aren’t we, Marv?

Sherry had said Howie worked late a lot at his job.  Mim couldn’t figure out what a psychologist would do after hours.  Does he see patients late at night? she’d asked, and Sherry had said no.  He’s just a hard worker, she’d said.  He thinks about things more than we do.

Mim tried to picture him: a tall young man with dark hair, wearing a suit and a tie — no, people didn’t wear suits anymore.  An oxford, maybe, and nice pants.  He would come in and shake both of their hands, Mim’s first — and then once they had their table she could ask him all about himself.  She was good at making friends; she always had been.  When he got there, he would like them, she felt sure.  It was important to her that he liked them.

Mim didn’t believe in psychology, but she was impressed when Sherry had told her what Howie did.  It was something she was able to pass along to the girls in her office the next day, a little piece of Sherry that she could present to them casually, at lunch.  Often she was jealous of them; most of them had daughters who called them multiple times a day, daughters whose weddings they planned as if they were their own, daughters who had daughters themselves, or daughters who came to the office after work to meet them for dinner.  One time Lolly Mather had invited Mim along, and Mim was shocked at the way they talked — about everything, about sex.  Lolly’s daughter Laura was Sherry’s age; they’d gone to school together.  How’s Sherry? she’d asked, and Mim said, She’s good; she’s in New York City.  Oh, said Laura.  New York City.

Mim did not often allow herself to drift into melancholy, but when she thought of Sherry — constantly, but especially when driving — she thought next of Sherry’s distressing distance from her, more than geographic, which had existed from the time she came to live with them at four years old.  She was their granddaughter, technically, the child of their boy Bailey, dead twenty-five years now.  But Mim had changed the sheets when Sherry wet her bed night after night, missing her mama.  She had put on Band-Aids, sewn costumes for school plays, loved her as if Sherry were her own child.  Better than that — better than she had ever loved Bailey, if she was telling herself the truth. Bailey moved out at sixteen and rarely spoke to them after that.  When he died it seemed like the dreadful fulfillment of some dark prophecy issued at his birth. With Bailey they were used to pain; it had occurred to Mim at the time that his destiny had simply been realized, that this was his final and vengeful blow to their hearts.  It was a comfort to her to think there was nothing they could have done for him.  Sometimes, when Sherry was growing up, she had reminded Mim so much of him that she became afraid, but then she had to reassure herself that Sherry was a nice girl, a good girl who had always done well at school and who still sent them thank-you notes for the care packages she received.  If she was private, it was fine; it was decent.  Yet there were times — the wild cries in the night when Sherry was eight or nine, the little things she hid from them that seemed so unimportant as to be comical — when Mim wondered whether Sherry had been damaged in some way by the ghosts of her father and mother.  She wished always to rescue Sherry from the time she had come to them, but Sherry had never wanted rescuing.  Mim told herself often, and sometimes aloud, that all she could do was love her.  She told Marv the same thing when he came to her hurt by some childish unintentional slight of Sherry’s.  He was ribbing her now, telling her she’d better eat two of those sandwiches going by or dinner was on her.  It’s on me anyway, Dad, said Sherry.  My treat.

The door opened behind them and a middle-aged man walked in.  He had a close-trimmed, graying beard and very blue eyes behind small gold-framed glasses, and he was carrying a folder.

Excuse me, Mim said, moving out of the way.

Well, maybe we should ask to be seated? asked Marv, turning to Sherry.

Hi, Howie, said Sherry, to the man in the door.

Marv took a step forward as if to shield her; Mim took a step back.

Hi, sweetheart, said this man, Howie, to Sherry, and then turned to Mim and said, You must be Sherry’s grandmother.  Maryanne Miller, said Mim.  She was shaken, and her hand faltered when she reached for his; no one had called her Sherry’s grandmother for years and years.  From the time Sherry was five, she was Mama; Marv was Daddy.

Marv Miller, said Marv.  He was very upright with his hands behind his back.

I’m Howie Plank, said the man. He smelled like cigarettes.  He was short.  Marv towered over him.  His skin was the deep brown of an outdoorsman.  His hair, the only boyish thing about him, was lighter than his beard, and tousled forward.  One tiny gold hoop was lodged in his left ear.  He wore a T-shirt, just like Sherry, and jeans that ended at his anklebone.  Below them, boat shoes with no socks.  He looked something like a pirate, thought Mim; a pirate or a sea captain.  He put an arm around Sherry’s waist and kissed her on the forehead like a child.

Well, said Sherry, I guess we should ask for a table!

Part Three

Mim felt breathless.  For a moment, she stood still in her spot by the door.  Howie and Sherry walked away from her, hand in hand behind the host; Marv followed.  Mim asked herself some questions: the first was this man’s age — to her he looked fifty, maybe older; the second was what he wanted with Sherry; the third was of Sherry herself, and how she could misjudge a situation so badly.  There were times, when Sherry was growing up, that Mim had suddenly asked herself: Who is this child?

Those things she had hidden things from them when she was small — physical things, little stones and shells she had saved over the years, and candy she took home from parties — had she thought they would be taken from her?  Mim had snooped; it was terrible, but she had.  She found Sherry’s treasures amidst her socks in the dresser, or in boxes under her bed.  Once, when Sherry was twelve or thirteen, Mim had found a journal between her mattress and box spring.  Sherry was at school, and Mim had opened it and read the first line — I am alone a lot — before slamming it shut, her pulse thumping in her neck.  She had put it neatly back in its place, and the next time she checked, it wasn’t there.

What did he want with her?  What had she told him about them?  They were sitting now, and she still hadn’t moved. Marv looked back over his shoulder at her questioningly.   She fumbled in her purse to look busy, and told herself to be kind and decent, to rekindle a certain generosity in herself.  She thought, Mim, give this man a chance.  Howie Plank.  There were worse things in the world than being middle-aged.  There were worse things in the world than being middle-aged and underdressed.

*   *   *

Howie ordered a roast beef sandwich, though it was almost midnight.  Mim and Marv decided to split a piece of cheesecake and each ordered a glass of milk. The waiter said, Milk with cheesecake?  Sherry asked for a half-sour pickle and a glass of ice water.  Sweetheart, are you sure? asked Mim. I already had dinner, said Sherry.  Well, so did we! said Marv, and patted his belly.  But that sure won’t stop us!  He wasn’t looking at Howie. Make it two pieces of cheesecake, said Mim to the waiter, and if you could please bring three forks.

My little bird, said Howie Plank, affectionately, and placed his heavy arm across Sherry’s shoulders.  Mim could think of nothing to say to him. He was gazing at Sherry as if he had won her at a fair.

So, said Howie, finally.  How was the show?  Long?  Boring?  He laughed.

I think they liked it, said Sherry.  Right, Dad?

Your mother did, said Marv.  And I did too, I guess, he admitted.

Maybe I’ve just seen it one too many times, said Howie.

Howie’s lived here all his life, said Sherry.  Her short haircut made her look boyish and even younger than twenty-seven.  She’s really just a girl, thought Mim, and had a sudden memory of Sherry at twelve years old, getting her braces on, crying and crying for days because she didn’t want them.  They hurt, she had said.  They hurt so bad.

Now Howie was holding her hand, and Mim felt her tongue becoming immobile and mute as a sponge.  This was unusual for her; she prided herself on her conversational skills.  She thought of herself as a person who loved making new friends.  She could talk to anyone.  Marv teased her about it: strangers on the bus, seatmates on airplanes.  She kept in regular contact with a nice woman she had met at an RV park in Arizona.  She was a people person; it was what others always said about her, anyway, and what she liked about herself.  If she admitted it, this aspect of her reputation was a particular vanity of hers.  But Howie Plank was a different sort of person.

Tell us about your work, she said at last, and Howie smiled knowingly.  Oh, boring, he said, and laughed.  I guess Sherry’s probably told you all about it.

You’re a psychiatrist? she asked.

Psychologist, Mom, said Sherry quickly.  She knew that.  She knew that.  But Howie was nodding already.  Common mistake, he said.  At least you didn’t call me an astrologer!

Sherry laughed.  She looked as if she wanted more from them, so Mim tried to think of a question.

What’s it like listening to people’s problems all day long?  Doesn’t it make you sad?

No, said Howie, thoughtfully.  It makes me — grateful.  It sure keeps things in perspective, anyway.

How nice, said Mim.  She was trying so hard to be herself that a small film of sweat had broken out on her upper lip.  Howie, that’s a really nice way to look at it.  Isn’t it, Marv?

Marv was contemplating the paper placemat.  He nodded, not looking at anyone.

Part Four

When the food came, Howie rubbed his hands together, looking at his monstrous sandwich, and said he had forgotten all about the Carnegie Deli until Sherry had suggested it.  It’s nice to have tourists in town, he said, because you get to see the best parts of New York all over again!  He picked up his knife and fork and held them upright at the sides of his plate, and then dug in with a vigor that surprised Mim.

That’s quite a sandwich, Howie, she said, and he nodded with his mouth full.

Sherry, said Marv, how’s the magazine?

Howie released a little exhalation through his nose and rolled his eyes.  Oh, jeez, he said.  Don’t get her started.

Mim was shocked.  She wished very much that Sherry would, in fact, get started.  The bits she got from Sherry about her job were minimal, though she asked her every Sunday evening when she called.  That Howie — that anyone—  would take for granted any part of Sherry’s life, would consider any aspect of it unworthy of discussion, infuriated her.  Sherry had never been forthcoming.  Anything she revealed was a gift to be treasured, and this was something Howie would know if he really cared about her.

Politics, politics, said Howie.  Sherry just has to learn to lay it on thicker.

What’s going on, Sherry? said Mim.  Is everything OK?

Yeah, said Sherry.  She bit into her half-sour pickle and said, I just don’t really want to talk about it right now.

*   *   *

Howie was done with half his sandwich before Mim had taken four bites of her cheesecake.  They talked about his childhood in New York, and Mim asked him, for some reason, whether they had school buses in Manhattan.  No, they have bus-buses in Manhattan! said Howie.  He winked, and told her yes, they had school buses too.  For the public school kids, he said.  He fiddled with his earring.  His left hand, Mim could tell, was resting on Sherry’s leg beneath the table.  She tried to keep her gaze at eye level. He was more than fifty, decided Mim.  Was he more than fifty?  There was no way to ask Sherry that.  There were many things about which she couldn’t ask Sherry: her job; her friends in New York — she had made the mistake, on the way to the Carnegie Deli, of inquiring after Sherry’s actress friend Carla. Sherry had said, We’re not really in touch anymore — her safety; her finances; and now Howie’s age.  Anything about Howie, Mim knew, she would have to extract from Howie himself.

Tell us about your family, she said at last, and Sherry looked at her sharply.  Throughout the meal, Mim had felt she was saying the wrong things, but she couldn’t stop herself, and she couldn’t tell how to fix it.

Well, said Howie, my youngest is twelve, and my oldest just turned seventeen.

Marv, who had been silent for most of the meal, put his fork down very gently on top of the cheesecake.

Or did you mean my parents?  asked Howie Plank.

Oh, said Mim, who was beginning to feel an unsettling trembling in the core of her, as if her breath had suddenly left her, Now, I don’t really know what I meant.

Sherry said, Howie has three children from a previous marriage.  Tomas is twelve, Peter Phillip is fourteen, and Alexandria is seventeen.

Do they — live here?  In New York City?  asked Mim.  She had given up trying to know what was right, or what she shouldn’t say.  A swarm of tourists had just entered the restaurant, happy and raucous and familiar to her, like old friends. Three older couples and what looked to be their grown children.  Stop it, one of them was saying, over and over, but she was shrieking with laughter. If they were standing next to her, Mim would certainly ask them where they were from.  She would ask them where they were staying, and for how long.

Tomas and Alexandria do, said Howie.  They live with me, actually, and go to school here, and visit their mother in Connecticut every other weekend.  Peter Phillip lives with his mother all the time.

Oh, said Mim.  Now why doesn’t he live with you, too?  She was a train; she was unstoppable and swift.

He has autism, said Howie, cheerfully.  I guess he just feels more comfortable with his mother.  He does better when he’s there.

A long and dreadful silence settled about them.  Howie made a funny little face at Sherry that they weren’t supposed to see.  Mim tried to picture Sherry as a mother of teenagers, one of them handicapped, wrong in some way.  Did they like her?  Were they kind to her?  And was Howie kind, all the time?  What did they talk about when they were alone?  The mystery of Sherry’s life seemed to unfurl itself before her, and for once she allowed herself to acknowledge the great expanse between them.  Every night, Sherry was doing things they weren’t supposed to know about.  Every day, Sherry went to work and spoke to friends they had never heard of.  Every day.  Everything was so strange and gray to her suddenly that she didn’t quite know what to do.

There was a great din in the place and she pretended to tune into it, for a moment, to obscure the fact that her words were failing her.  She prayed that Marv would say something, but instead he excused himself to go to the restroom. She watched him as he walked away, and noticed again that he was limping.  He was older than she was by five years. Probably it was just from sitting for too long.  Probably it was another of his maladies, like his cataracts, like the arthritis that had plagued his hands for years.  He had also been going deaf slowly for some time now; she had grown accustomed to raising her voice when she spoke to him.  Only at night, in bed, when the world around them was soundless and still, did she feel she could lower it again.  These were her favorite times: the whispering, the near-silence.

Part Five

Howie tried to pick up the bill when it came and Marv growled, Oh no, you don’t, and snatched it from him, literally, took it from his hands.

Daddy, said Sherry.

What? said Marv.  I’ve got it.

It’s been a pleasure, Marv. Thank you, said Howie Plank.

*   *   *

Outside, the four of them stood facing each other in front of the tall front windows of the Carnegie Deli.  It was one in the morning.  She realized suddenly that in Utah it was only eleven. Wrapped in a box in her hand was the second piece of cheesecake, which she and Marv had not come close to eating.

Is your place far from here, Sherry? asked Mim.  She shifted her weight from one leg to the other.  She was thinking about her camera, how there were no pictures on it yet.

It is, said Sherry, and looked at Howie.  He tipped his head.

Where is it? asked Marv, suddenly.

Oh, said Sherry.  It’s — on the Lower East Side.

The phrase was meaningless to them.  They did not know where they were, geographically; they knew their hotel was near Columbus Circle, and that the show had been in Times Square, but they did not know where Times Square was, nor how far they had strayed from it in coming here to eat.  The Lower East Side was a phrase like Aspen or The Poconos. Standing there in front of the Carnegie Deli, Mim felt very lost.  She wished for the first time to be home in Provo.  She felt the weight of her purse acutely, the weight of the guidebook and lipstick and camera in it.

Well, we’d like to see it, said Marv.  His forcefulness was unexpected.

You’ll have to! Sherry said.  Next time you visit, for sure.

*   *   *

They left then, jumping into a cab, Sherry after Howie, waving goodbye. Mim had a sudden devastating vision of Sherry as a newlywed — it was in the lift of her heel as she entered the car, the small hand on the rear window as they pulled away — and she held onto Marv’s arm.  The world seemed to open around her like an ocean.  She had no pictures on her camera, nothing to bring back to Utah as evidence of her trip.  No little token to show the women in her office.  Nothing to frame.  Sherry had said nothing about tomorrow or the next day.  As they said goodbye, Mim had considered asking her, but something had stopped her and now she was plan-less.  She didn’t do well without a plan.  Sunday night they were to return to Utah.  What would they do until then?  It was impossible to say.  The world was so open and new — the world was larger than it should have been.  It was too warm, too windy, too loud on the street.  What were they going to do?  Right now they would walk to the hotel — they would walk three blocks north, and three avenues west, as Sherry had instructed them.  They would avoid the subject of dinner.  They would do what was right and proper.  If Sherry called them tomorrow — the thought of it lifted her momentarily and then dropped her again, as it always did.

Marv.  Beside her was Marv.

It’s so warm still, said Mim.  All she wanted was to make a noise.

But it was.  The sky was green and glowing.  The buildings that were lit up before had darkened. It was impossible, she realized, impossible — that people lived in those buildings.  Nobody could live in buildings like those, towering impersonal buildings like those.  The lone low hum of the subway sounded beneath them, and she thought suddenly of Bailey and how he had been as a small boy, the soft blonde down on his cheeks and legs, the perfect half-moons of dirt beneath his babyish fingernails.  It had all changed — when he was twelve, it had all changed.

Are you limping, Marv? she said.

He didn’t respond; perhaps he hadn’t heard.  The street around them was so crowded, still, at one in the morning.  It was unnatural.

Are you limping? she asked again.  Marv shook his head no, but it was distinct: he was hitching to the right with every step, grimacing as if in pain.

I don’t believe you, she said quietly.  She felt tender toward him, and squeezed his arm to tell him so.  She felt he was her only ally.

The world was open. Ahead of them, she thought she saw Central Park — there were horses and carriages lined up one after another in front of a high stone wall — but she wasn’t certain what it was.  It could be anything.  New York stretched endlessly around them in all directions, and she couldn’t see the edge of it.  There was no knowing where they were.