- Something About Love
Lewis Dark lost his wife in a fire. Less than a year later he was living with Vicky, who was divorced and had primary custody of three children, aged four, seven, and ten. People said—sometimes to his face—that she was taking advantage of him in his state of grief, that she was after his money, which he made selling high-end espresso machines to restaurants. People said she didn't even try to control the children, who ran and shouted through the rooms of his now-crowded home. It was true they were noisy, but Lewis liked noise. It drowned things out, and he wanted to be drowned.
People didn't know that he had pursued Vicky, not the other way around. He was driving home from work one day when he saw a woman standing at a bus stop, crying. Traffic was heavy and he edged alongside her, registering the scrunched spasms of her face. It had rained earlier in the day and she leaned on a long rolled-up umbrella as if it were a cane. To cruise slowly past a stranger crying seemed to him heartless. At the next light, he turned and circled around the block, but by the time he made it back the bus had ferried her away. [End Page 2]
The next day he drove past the bus stop again, at the same time, but she wasn't there. He spent his days in the car, driving from one restaurant to the next, taking meetings and arranging demonstrations of the Mostro Dolce, which was a sleek steel behemoth retailing for twenty-five thousand dollars. The machine's espresso was so good it spoke for itself, Lewis always said, but he spoke anyway, to earn his keep. He'd make a single espresso for the restaurant owner and point out the velvety crema at its surface. He talked about authenticity and depth of flavor. And then he would point at himself, with a self-deprecating smile, and tell the owner that the machine was idiotproof: "I just made you a world-class espresso, and I am an idiot."
The owner would laugh a little.
"Trust me," Lewis would say. "I really am."
The crying woman at the bus stop roosted in his thoughts. She was not an especially attractive woman—thirties, wan—dressed in a bulky cable-knit cardigan and jeans. He took to driving past the bus stop at different times of day, sometimes going far out of his way to do so. It was weeks before he saw her again and, at first, he wasn't sure it was the same woman. She was wearing a flowered dress and vaping. Only her hair, blond and curly, was the same as he recalled. When he pulled up in front of the bus stop and rolled down the window, strawberry vapor wafted into the car.
"Excuse me," he said, "do you need a lift?"
The woman did not make eye contact. She lifted her mouth to the sky and exhaled fruit.
"I'm not a psychopath," he said, wondering, as he spoke, whether this was something a psychopath would say.
She ignored him, and he flushed.
"Sorry," he said, and rolled up the window. He sat in the car with his hands shaking on the steering wheel. The light turned red and stayed red for ages. He was about to press the gas when there [End Page 3] was a tap on the passenger-side window and the woman slid in beside him.
"You don't look dangerous. Your car smells like coffee," she said.
"It's espresso," he said.
"Well," she said, "tell me all about it. Who are you? What's your story? Tell me everything. And don't lie—I always know when someone's lying." This turned out to be true. He once saw her reduce a store manager to tears as he admitted that an item had been mistagged.
They moved in together two months later. Vicky was not at all the dowdy, depressed woman he had first imagined. She was the kind of woman of whom friends said, "She...