"You're starting over now," she said, appraising me. I was, after all, standing there in her clothes. "It's good."
I stalled -- I didn't want her to go. "But what do I want?" I asked. "This time?"
"What did you want the last time?" She shook a little harder, I thought, then laughed abruptly, a guffaw, like she probably used to make when she was young and flirting over a fence or something. Then her expression sobered. "What do I want?What a useless question," she barked irritably. "Don't ever ask it again. Of yourself or anyone else."
I was taken aback. "I won't."
She smiled. "Goodbye, dear," she said. She gave my arm a pat, and my forehead a last feel. "Good," she said. "Goodbye."
I watched her go down the steps, leaning on the rickety rail and taking them sideways. She waved me away. "No, don't come down," she said. "I like leaving you here." And she tottered off. The nurse helped her into the Cadillac, and they drove away.
I turned back, went inside, and sat down. I looked at my apartment. I put on shorts and drove down to the harbor, where I ran six miles, so that I had blisters even on the soles of my feet for days.
Slowly, I took the old woman's advice. And I can now say, looking back, that since then, I have never wanted.
I SEE NOW THAT I HAVEN'T TOLD THIS unpleasant story quickly at all, but maybe as quickly as is ultimately possible.
Hillary Johnson is the author ofPhysical Culture: A Novel and the nonfiction collectionSuper Vixens' Dymaxion Lounge.