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  • I wrote this story and didn't like it and left it sitting on my desk. Maybe I would return to it. Maybe I wouldn't. But leaving things where I find them has become an important theme.

    It was quiet in the apartment and late. A light was on at the end of the hallway, but I walked on my toes to keep from waking anyone. A few boards cried as I went, and Anna was watching for me when I got to the kitchen.

    “I didn’t know you were up,” she said.

    “I was trying to be quiet.”

    “I could tell.” A cup of cold tea was in front of her.

    “Why are you up?” I asked. I kept my voice down and stayed on my toes to the cupboard. “Can I have some?”

    “It might be cold.”

    “That’s okay.”

    I took a mug and sat at the table. I felt the side of the teapot; it was still warm and I poured my cup half full.

    “Finish it,” she said.

    “You don’t want anymore?”

    She shook her head. She was sitting forward, arms crossed over some open magazine on the table. I asked her what kind of tea and she told me. I didn’t know it. I’m not a tea drinker.

    We were quiet for a time with the tea in front of us and the open magazine. I stared at the wall or looked across the room. The clock was ticking but there was little else. Anna looked at the magazine beneath her crossed arms. She straightened and looked at me.

    “I couldn’t sleep,” she said.


    “Yeah, I don’t know.”

    We were quiet a while longer and I stared back at the wall. I put my hands around the mug with the tea in it but it was hardly warm.

    “You have a good birthday?” I asked.

    She said yes, yes it was definitely good. Thanks again, she said.

    I took a sip of the lukewarm stuff and set it down.

    “I have a habit of fucking things up,” I said, not referring to anything.

    “What do you mean?”

    “Just that,” I said.

    Anna didn’t say anything for a time. And then: “You do like things interesting.”

    “I have a habit of not finishing,” I said.

    There was a sound from in the building but it was just the sound some buildings make. The weight of history or something more banal. We were quiet again and waiting.

    “You should try,” she said. “Maybe you’d be good at it.”

    A cake was half-eaten on the counter and under cellophane. I looked at my tea. It needed stirring. Everything does sooner or later.

    “You want this?” I asked.

    She looked at my tea.

    “You can’t finish it?” She grinned.

    “Fuck you,” I said. We both smiled.

    I got up and poured the tea into the sink. I rinsed the cup but left it sitting; I would wash it in the morning. Anna watched me.

    “Goodnight, brother,” she said.

    I said goodnight and went back down the hall. At my studio I stood and listened. The sound of running water and the kettle being set back on the stove was there. I heard the burner kick on.

    I was conscious of being selfish. (I hadn’t asked her why she couldn’t sleep.) I was conscious of mistakes. I sat down to finish this story. It never got better but it got done.
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