Call it Chapter 2A

He got to her apartment, stripped and slid into bed between her and the wall. His foot toppled a hill of Kleenexes balled up beside the bed as he angled in. She was snoring through heavy sinuses and he kissed her bare shoulder.

“I’m surprised one of those pretty writer girls didn’t take pity on you and try to take you home,” she said. She turned over. She was smiling through the dark hair over her face. She pushed it behind her ear and looked at him. “It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer.”

He’d heard it so many times over the past few hours it didn’t sound like her when she said it.

She laid her head on the pillow and her face was covered again. She yawned.

“I gotta go home tomorrow,” he said.

Her eyes were closed and she didn’t say anything. He wondered if she was asleep. He kissed her face; she sighed.

“I don’t know how you can leave me like this,” she said. He wanted to break in and tell her, but she kept going. “I went to the nurse today. She said it might be tuberculosis. She made me cough into a Kleenex and she said she saw blood.”

Megan did that sometimes. He thought it was sarcasm the first time and that it was funny. He wanted it to be funny. But she kept doing it and he found it was completely unrelated. She was done talking for the day.

Even if he should have gone home but came here because he was afraid he’d have to cry, because he didn’t know where else he could do that, she was done talking for the day.

“I don’t know if I can do it anymore,” he said. He was going to say, all the work and no reward, but she said, “How do you think I feel.” She didn’t sound upset either. She sounded like she was whispering over a boring dream. And she was bored, he thought. Because there was no job, no debt. Nothing to prove. “I have a disease that only characters in 19th century British novels get. And it’ll probably be the end of me.”

She trailed off and was asleep. Probably for real.

It was easier then, without the talking, to focus on the good in her and how beautiful she was. She’s only a sophomore, he thought. She’ll outgrow it.

— We are an Old Town

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