Lanky girl, early twenties, mod-cropped strawberry hair died blond. Lanky boy, late twenties, unruly jet-black hair. Sipping beers, leaning close over the table, talking.
"I can't believe nobody told me," says the boy. Face so puzzled it's probably comical. But the conversation isn't funny.
Lanky girl's sister has been institutionalized, then released. For a time it seemed so serious there was doubt she'd recover. Now she's on heavy meds. She's out, but she's not the same.
Like a switch being thrown, lanky girl assumes a facade of professional detachment. In school she's studying to be a therapist. "Do you think you had a right to be told?," she asks, as if no emotion of hers were at stake in the answer.
The question is so shocking that for the lanky boy time slows, becomes unreal. What does that mean? Of course he had a right to be told. He'd have quit his job, camped on the hospital floor if need be. To him there is no person in the world more important than the lanky girl's sister. He can't believe she said it. What does the question mean?
Lanky boy is so stunned he's unable to speak. He says nothing, the moment passes. Time resumes. They return to their beers.
All the rest of his life he wishes he'd replied with the words he'd been thinking.