We’re sitting opposite each other on worn but comfortable chairs and the shelves around us are crammed with spines I don’t know. He asks questions, nervously smoothing the front of his shirt, and I don’t know but say yes oh yes of course I know. This goes on for a few minutes and I am polite. I am not literary though I understand the plight of this store and others like it. It is my business to understand its difficulty. And so I smile because they tell us it’s good to smile. Through the storefront there is a particular gloaming, a late-summer pinking that could make a lesser sky fearful of winter. I am respectful, sipping and nodding to familiar sounds. My right shoe dangles over my left knee and for a moment I lose myself in my laces, admiring the leather, the knot. Feeling a sharp expectation, I grip my heel. He has asked a different thing and I am caught. I smile and he suddenly sees me behind this veil and it makes him smile, too. Before removing the note from my jacket I hesitate to allow us this time to be everything better.

Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel Freight. Visit melbosworth.com.