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TULSA SNOW/Edward Falco SHE SAID, "You have no character. I see right through you." She leaned across the table, closer to me, her eyes glittering a little, as if she had just told me I was cute. I tried hard to appear amused. We were seated in a high-backed booth in a Tulsa, Oklahoma café. I hardly knew this woman. I had met her maybe an hour earlier in the airport coffee shop, where we were both killing time, drinking coffee, stranded by a snowstorm—and beyond the cafe's big plateglass windows, snow continued falling thick and slow, floating to the ground in big flakes that seemed almost to rock like little boats as they descended. I looked around the café, embarrassed by the turn in the conversation. There were five other people in the place. Three old guys with big guts and gray hair, in cowboy hats, were seated at one of the round tables in the center of the room. They were silent, looking down at their coffee cups. Behind the counter, a waitress in a black uniform with a white nametag pinned to her breast wiped a saucer with a dishrag. Behind her, the cook stood over the griU with his arms crossed, looking down at the metal surface as if something were cooking there, which nothing was. They were listening to us. They had been watching us and listening to us since we walked through the door. I said, "What do you mean I have no character ? What kind of a thing is that to say?" "The truth," she said. She pushed her hair back off her face. She had crimped blonde hair that fell over her forehead and cheeks. She was young, maybe twenty-five, twenty-six. I figured about ten years younger than me. "Why is it the truth?" "Why?" "I mean," I said, "why do you think I have no character?" "Just listen to yourself." She crossed her arms under her breasts and leaned back. She still had that bright look in her eyes that seemed to say she didn't reaUy mean any harm: she was just noting something fascinating. "You're talking like me," she said. "You're picking up my inflections, my tone, even my mannerisms. You're a blank slate. It's as if you're turning into my image as I watch." I laughed, but it was an obviously uncomfortable laugh. I thought about just getting up and walking out. Unfortunately, there was no place to go. We had taken a taxi from the airport, and Td have to walk The Missouri Review · 128 over to the phone, which was in plain view against the opposite wall, call a cab, and then wait. Meanwhile, the place was still as a closet. The cook was a big, heavy guy and you could hear him breathing. I said, "You're an interesting woman, Jessie. Here we were, talking amiably about things—and then suddenly: I have no character. Did I say something wrong?" She looked at me a long moment, as if deciding how she should continue , as if measuring me and trying to determine what she could tell me and what she couldn't. At the airport, I had joined her at her table because she was pretty and seemed nice, an ordinary attractive blonde with crimped hair, wearing bright sneakers and blue jeans and a green suede shirt with the top two buttons open, looking dreamily out the window at falling snow. I knew myself to be a good-looking man. I had been told so all my life by women and by men. I was tall and muscular , with a squarish, rugged-looking face. I knew I could walk up to most unattached women and start up a conversation and my advances would be welcome. As a salesman, my looks were my chief asset, and for that reason I kept myself in good shape, working out an hour every day with weights, jogging two miles every morning. From a distance, Jessie had seemed nice—attractive and nice. And she had acted that way too, sharing pleasant, friendly conversation with a stranger stuck in an...


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