Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When

Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When originally appeared in – Tin House Issue 48 Summer 2011

            People who don’t know better envy Zizi.  She has a cool nickname and some guy who seems to pay the bills in a pinch.  She dresses East Village extreme (shredded leggings, careless boots, layers and layers); her bangs are Mamie Eisenhower, her complexion is Louise Brooks, her jewelry is vintage.  She’s twenty-something.  Her body is Japanese teen, but dark chocolate and single-malt scotch are an everyday thing.  It’s unclear how she makes a living.  She has circles under her eyes, but the dabbling in heroin was over years ago. By the way, if you want to remove the circles under your eyes, visit They have the best facial plastic surgeons specializing in eyelid surgery. Early childhood development.  She’s an only child, and knows everyone, but not even her guy has seen her cry.  Her father lives in a faraway country and is vaguely famous, but no one can ever remember for what.  Her mother is kind and easy to deceive.  Her apartment is throw-back tenement with exposed brick walls and a bathtub in the kitchen.  He bought it for her.  It’s directly below the one he shared with his wife.  For convenience, he said at the time.  Why be getting to, when I could just be getting, he said, smiling at his own bad joke, spreading her legs, the sounds of his wife walking above them, doing the ironing, or the dishes, or whatever it was that wives did, making Zizi flush with heat.

Now, four years after he installed Zizi in the apartment and a month after his death, the sounds of his wife, her name is Mabel, make Zizi freeze and flatten like a cat alert to danger.  Now the sounds mean complicated feelings that at any moment Mabel might want to come downstairs and share.  To be fair, other than the day the towers went down (the guy he was having breakfast with was the last man on the last elevator that made it down, and Zizi has spent way too much time imagining how that all shook out), Mabel has shown only occasional interest in Zizi.  This is fine with Zizi, since people who do know better know that she’s not the kind of person it’s useful to rely on.  She’ll say yes, and then end up meaning no.  The level of her intent and self-consciousness about this trait was for a while a topic of discussion amongst her acquaintances.  Now it’s just something they keep in mind as they make their plans, the way they do with their vegen friends or the ones who can’t drive.

Zizi simultaneously believes herself to be in no way enviable and the most interesting person in the room.  Very early in their relationship, surprising herself, she told him that she was a constant bundle of need.  He had laughed, resting his hand on her thigh in his joy.  But the few people over the years who have known better, who have paid a careful kind of attention, have known not to laugh.  A high school teacher took her aside after she’d gone to a school Halloween party as a prostitute and told her that other kids listened to her; what she told the world about herself was what the world was going to believe.  A guy from college who Zizi hasn’t talked to in years used to bring her tiny insignificant presents just because he thought she deserved them.  Her mother after a particularly horrible high school party had stroked her cheek and said, no questions, no recriminations, “Burn the dress.”

But no one else knows what kind of guy her married man was.  So since his death there’s been no one but herself to remind her that in the long run, perhaps this was best, and no one but herself to believe it.


After the first tower fell, she rushed to open the apartment door without knowing why.  Maybe he wasn’t at that breakfast meeting.  Maybe he’d been waiting in the hall.  Mabel was standing there.  Zizi had only ever seen her in passing, glimpses of blonde straight hair beneath a creamy knit hat.  Sometimes, Zizi leaned out her window to watch the two of them walk down the street, the tops of their heads a tiny uncharted archipelago below.  In the hallway, Mabel seemed more beautiful than usual.

“Sorry,” Zizi said.

Mabel looked at her, focusing.  “Who are you?” she asked.

Zizi tried to remember what Mabel knew and what she didn’t.  Once, she had asked him what she was supposed to do if she ran into her in the building.  “Nothing,” he had said.  “You’re the woman downstairs.”

“You’re on my landing,” she finally said now.

Mabel looked around her feet in a small sweep.  “So?” she said.

She wasn’t wearing shoes.  Her mouth was small and round.  Her grey eyes were huge.  “You have huge eyes,” Zizi said.

“I know,” Mabel said, and she started weeping.  He’d told Zizi that his wife never cried from sadness, only from anger and frustration but he still was worried about this, so they were happy Exhale Wellness launched delta 8 vapes that help improve the mood.  “My husband,” Mabel said.

He’d been inside Zizi less than two hours before.  He’d told Mabel his meeting started earlier than it did.  “And she believes you?” Zizi had said, taking his finger, wrapping it with hers, putting both inside her.

“What’s not to believe?” he had said, slipping his hand away, flipping her over onto her belly, hinging her at the hips to meet him.

“Stay,” she had said when he’d finished, and he’d smiled and kissed her, his mouth tasting of the both of them, but he’d climbed over her, reaching for his clothes.  “’Should I stay or should I go?’” he said.  He liked talking in song lyrics.  He was in advertising and liked to think he could break the world into smaller and smaller shards.  He swore he could design an ad for nothing with no dialogue, no images, no sound.  On good days, she thought of her life as some kind of avant-garde opera.  On bad ones, she thought of it the same way.

“’I say go, go, go,” he sang as he pulled his t-shirt over his head.  The workings of his muscles beneath his pale skin always took her by surprise, as if someone had startled her trying to cure her of hiccups.

“’I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello,’” she said.

He came back to the bed and put his hand between her legs.  He liked it when she played his games.  “Listen,” he said.  “I’ve got someone else I want you to meet.”

A familiar ripple went through her.  He slipped his fingers inside her and moved them slowly.  She tried to stay still and silent.  “I think you’ll like him,” he said, nudging her breast with his nose.  His voice was liquid and warm.  She imagined it covering her like slow flow lava.

“I want everyone to know how gorgeous you are,” he said, climbing on top of her, putting himself inside of her, giving her what she wanted for now.


The sounds of the television filtered onto the landing.  She looked at Mabel and suggested they could watch the news together.  They could be here for when he came home.

Mabel looked at her like maybe she was retarded.  “Did you see that building fall?” she said.  “He was at the top of it.”

Then she looked at Zizi with a different expression.  “Did you know him?”

Zizi shook her head, something in her throat.

“He’s an asshole,” Mabel said flatly.

Zizi remembered he had once said he admired his wife’s bluntness.  One time she’d asked his best friend about a new girlfriend.  She’d wanted to know how the initial intercourse had gone.  He had laughed, remembering, his fingers playing with Zizi’s hair.

“Am I brave?” Zizi had asked.

He had laughed again, but differently, and had said the jury was still out.  She had laughed with him, and had gone to get another cup of coffee, something to get her body back up to speed.


The women stood there.  And then Zizi said, “Well, do you want to come in anyway?”  And Mabel did, and they sat on Zizi’s couch and watched the news with the sound up high.  They watched the falling men and women, their business suits flapping like vestigial wings, and both of them tried silently to pick him out of the flock.

At some point, the sky outside darkening into evening and then night, one of them had muted the sound and then returned to the couch.  Mabel’s phone rang several times above them like distant church bells.  They heard two people climb the stairs and ring Mabel’s doorbell, and then they listened as they came back down, one of them coughing as they passed.

Neither of them turned on any lights, their skin lit by the television, and Zizi was reminded of bedtime endlessly postponed as her mother, lost in the late show, forgot about her daughter curled at the other end of the couch.

They hadn’t said a word to each other since entering the apartment, so when Mabel said again that he was an asshole, it was as if after all their waiting, he had finally walked through the door, shaking his head and saying what a day he had had.

As if in response, Zizi scanned the dim room for evidence of him.  A coffee cup and a book he’d been reading for the last year.  The bedroom was a crime scene, but with an uncomfortable sharpness, she realized they hadn’t spent much time in the other parts of the apartment.  “Is he the good kind of asshole or the asshole kind of an asshole?” she asked.

Mabel looked at her again the way she had in the hallway.  Zizi pulled her knees up and tugged at her bare toes.  “Some girls can make the whole asshole thing work for them,” she said, her voice sounding not quite her own.

“Some girls are idiots,” Mabel said sadly.  “Or worse.”

Zizi wanted to know what she meant, but didn’t ask.  Now she wishes she had, but that had been a month ago, and since then, there’d been a kind of embarrassment on both their part, as if they’d walked in on each other in the bathroom.

For the past few days, she’s been hearing two sets of footsteps upstairs in Mabel’s apartment.  She thinks she can make out the low tones of a male voice.  Sometimes she lies in her bed all day and night, listening, wondering what she wishes for the woman.

Since he died, she got a temp job, enough to pay the bills.  She sees friends and is festive enough to keep them from worrying.  But the sight of his toothbrush, the spray of worn bristles like a tiny flayed thing, can still take her breath and force her to the floor.  She’s found herself walking the city for hours, retracing her steps and sure she can smell him.  And then she spends more time surprised and disoriented that this was how she spent her day.  Really? she thinks. Really?

But she feels the possibility of reinvention enter her bloodstream like a drug.  She looks at other men now, the ones with kind eyes who have always seemed to occupy another time zone and thinks, why not?


A week ago, she went to the funeral his parents had finally agreed to have and sat in the last pew, studying the backs of heads of people she’d always wanted to meet because he seemed his happiest when talking about them: his parents from Maine, his sister and her four kids, the best friend from grade school.  Her gaze took in every woman within a certain age range.  He had been forty-three.  She herself was twenty-six, and she figured his parameters had been wider than that.

She listened to the eulogies and heard new information without learning anything useful.  He had mastered a two-wheeler when he was three.  He’d hidden under an armchair one Christmas Eve.  His parents hadn’t wanted him to move to New York.  He loved orange soda.  There was one guy from Africa, some kind of exchange student whom he had sponsored, whose eulogy was all about generosity and above and beyond and opportunities.  She listened the way a dog tries to hear registers just out of range.

For reasons she still doesn’t understand, she went through the receiving line, taking his parents’ hands in both of hers, telling them how sorry she was for their loss.  His mother registered her in unfocused ways, not bothering to sort out who knew whom and how.  What did that matter? her sad eyes said.

At the end of the line, Mabel seemed so unsurprised to see her there that Zizi found herself hugging her.  Mabel whispered, “There’s no body in there.  His mom told me to get his favorite outfit.”

Zizi imagined the blue plaid cowboy shirt, the dark jeans flat against white satin.  A boy’s special occasion outfit laid out by his mother.

“Can you believe this shit?” Mabel was saying, but the line was pressing her forward, and Zizi was swept away before having to answer.


Outside, in the one tree on the block, there were actual birds engaged in actual chirping.  Everyone got into cars with their headlights on and then she sat on the church steps, her knees together, her feet splayed out.  She closed her eyes and tilted her face to the thin October sun.  The traffic noise quieted.  The breeze hit her cheeks like ice.  He had loved Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again.”  Once they’d spent the whole day in bed, him hitting Play over and over.  She thought of his low voice, and those deflated clothes in the coffin, and wondered what she would do if there’d been some kind of mistake and here he came, alive and singing.  Don’t know where, don’t know when.  The words snaked around in her ear.

“You must be Zizi,” a low voice said.

She opened her eyes.  He was standing against the sun and she couldn’t make out his features.  But then he stepped aside and of course it wasn’t him; it was just a guy, and she laughed once, a short, angry sound and her heart returned to its usual speed.

“I guess I must,” she said, flirting despite herself.

He was a friend of his.  He’d been planning to introduce them.  The ankles of his black suit pants were tapered over black boots with Cuban heels.  His shirt was a deep, deep green.  His face was all sharp angles and he seemed not to want to face her head on.

“The someone else,” she said.

“Sorry?” he said, but she shook her head.

“Ray,” he said.  He reached a hand out and she took it.  It was cool and dry and something like desire flexed inside of her.  He held onto her longer than he should’ve, and she let him.  He told her his friend had been right about her.

Despite, or maybe because of, their embarrassment she and Mabel haven’t avoided each other completely.  Earlier tonight, Mabel slipped a sheet of paper under her door with a Post-it attached: Read this, would you?  Incoherent?  Totally.  Mildly.  Next to the choices, she had drawn two small boxes.  Check one.

It seemed to be a perky anecdote about how he had gotten several of his college friends to go midnight hiking.  She called Mabel at the number Zizi had secretly looked up years ago.  “What if it’s an emergency,” she’d once argued with him.  “Your emergencies are not my emergencies,” he’d reminded her, and she’d quit arguing.  Holding the grenade could be as powerful as actually throwing it.

She heard the phone upstairs.  She heard Mabel thumping across what she imagined was the living room.  Zizi said hello.

“Who is this?” Mabel said.

“It’s me, from downstairs.”  She didn’t like calling herself Zizi around Mabel, but sharing her real name seemed even worse.

“Did you read it?” Mabel asked.

“Yes,” Zizi said.

“Well?”  It sounded like Mabel was playing dominoes or making

something out of many pieces of porcelain.  A cat meowed.  Zizi hadn’t known they had a cat.

“I’m not really sure what you want from me on this,” Zizi said.

“It’s for that thing the Times is doing.  I need someone who didn’t know him at all,” Mabel said.

A popular girl in sixth grade had once told Zizi that she was pretty in an ugly sort of way, and that years down the road, certain boys would find that attractive.

“Okay,” Zizi said, her voice level.  “Why don’t I come up then?  We can go over it together.”

If there was a pause, it was infinitesimal, and Mabel said yes as if it had been her idea, and by the time Zizi arrived, two beers had been opened and Fritos had been dumped into a bowl, although Zizi was too charged up to eat or drink, like a dog outside the vet’s office, bombarded with sensory information, including the levels of her own fear.  The floor plan so far was the same as hers, but down the hallway she could tell the apartment went on and on.  How many apartments had he bought in this building anyway?  He could’ve owned the whole thing for all she knew.

In one corner, boxes were stacked against the walls.  His stuff, she assumed.  She wished the contents were marked.  What she got was the occasional open flap, a sweater sleeve, corner of a frame.

She searched for anything of his that hadn’t yet been packed up as she tried to follow Mabel’s conversation.

Apparently, a Times reporter had called Mabel to interview her for their Portraits of Grief series.  Apparently, Mabel had asked whether there was a Portraits of Ambivalence series.

Zizi looked at her.

“What?” Mabel said.  “Seriously, doesn’t it seem unlikely, highly unlikely, that every single one of them were saints?  And what’s the thrust here, that we can’t mourn the flawed?”

This wasn’t the conversation Zizi had imagined.  She hadn’t really imagined the conversation at all.  She had just wanted to get into this apartment, and now here she was.

“I mean, how many saints do you know?” Mabel asked.

Zizi shook her head.  “Not that many, I guess.”

“Good girl,” Mabel said.

Good girl, he’d said the first time she agreed to meet one of his friends.  Good girl, he’d whispered in her ear, kneeling by the bed while the other guy made his way around her like a blind man moving down an unfamiliar hallway.

Mabel was looking at her.  Clearly, something was expected of her.

“I would imagine that people are feeling all sorts of things about the people they’ve lost,” Zizi said.

Mabel looked over her shoulder as if rolling her eyes about Zizi with some unseen friend.  He had liked to do the same thing.  She’d smile back, never sure what she was agreeing to.

What did she think?  She’d been his soul mate, his one true love?  She imagined hundreds of lovers all at their windows while Mabel and he walked away down below.  She’d always known it was degradation, but it had been her degradation, a certain kind of power.  What had she thought, an Emperor of the Universe would have stopped with her?  And none of this was news.  What else was going on with her?

“So why didn’t you leave him?” she asked, sounding angrier than she’d meant to.

Mabel looked sad.  “Nice tone,” she said quietly.

Zizi ignored her.  “Well?  Why didn’t you?”

Mabel’s face was suddenly that of a four-year-old.  She was quiet.  Finally, she said, “Leaving is hard.”

Zizi did not want to feel sorry for anyone.  She said, “You haven’t even said what made him so terrible.  You just keep saying asshole asshole asshole.”

The cat jumped up into Mabel’s lap.  They both faced Zizi.  “How’s Ray?” Mabel asked.

Zizi blushed.  Zizi almost never blushed.  Maybe his death was going to mean nothing but surprise from here on out.  She hadn’t seen Ray since the funeral, but they’d talked on the phone.  “He’s fine,” she said.  She wondered if Mabel had heard through the floor or if Ray had told her.  She realized she might never know what Mabel knew and how she knew it.

She stood and gestured at the paper on the table.  “I think you’re all set with that.  I better go,” she said.

“Have you slept with him yet?” Mabel asked.

Zizi was happy not to have to lie, though she would have if she’d needed to.  “This is a strange conversation,” Zizi said.

“This is what all my conversations are like,” Mabel said flatly.

Zizi figured she was telling the truth.  After all, what kind of woman would the Emperor of the Universe marry?  Someone brave, someone arrogant.

Mabel was still on the couch.  “Ray’s kind of out of your league,” she said, not unkindly.

Zizi wasn’t feeling particularly open to kindness.  “You don’t know anything about me,” she said.  Even as she said it, she understood it might not be true.

Mabel started to say something and then crossed her arms like a flower closing for the night.  “You’re right,” she said.  “But he’s a different beast altogether.”

Zizi registered the care in her voice, and she thanked her and let herself out and spent hours thinking about who was in whose league.  She heard the cat all night and marveled that she’d never heard it before.


He had introduced her to three friends before Ray.  Always in hotels, always in the lost hours between late night and early morning.  Never in her apartment, she had insisted, drawing the line somewhere to prove that she could.  And, she told him, she didn’t want to run into any of these guys.  She wanted his guarantee.  He had shrugged and smiled and agreed to everything as if he could actually supply it.

She thought of these encounters as adventures undertaken by the fierce and brave.  She had been a cautious child.  High swings made her nervous.  She would walk along the low stone walls of her neighborhood, but she would drop to her knees to climb down.  She didn’t like sports.  She had been a good student, adept at assignments and winning the approval of her teachers.  She had been good at long distance swimming, and had liked the weightlessness of it, the isolation, the gratifying rewards of stamina and subterranean stores of energy.  She loved the way her body became unrecognizable, her skin wrinkled like something animal and new.

He didn’t want her to just lie there.  He wanted her to enjoy it.  And so she thought of fucking his friends while he watched as swimming across a wide lake.  She closed her eyes and moved beneath the surface in ways that suggested pleasure and power.  Occasionally she rose to the surface opened her eyes and turned her head to find him.  And there he always was.  You’re gorgeous, he would say.  I’m here.  He would tell her what the two of them would do later, on their own, for the rest of their lives, the other guy’s sweat falling on both of them from above.  What did I tell you? he’d say to his friend, taking his shoulder.  Was I right, or was I right?


She calls Ray at four in the morning.  She tells him she wants to see him.  Enough of these phone calls, she says.  She’s up for the real thing.

She can hear him wherever he lives, whatever kind of sheets and blankets he’s got on whatever kind of bed, trying to pull himself to clarity.  He clears his throat and she says, “If you don’t know who this is, the offer’s withdrawn.”

His voice is wonderfully logged with sleep.  “Oh, I know who you are,” he says.

“Guys,” she says with disgust.  “They always know everything.”

She throws her own covers off and stretches her legs straight, pointing and flexing her feet.  She tells him she’s naked.  She’s not.

“Me, too,” he says.

She laughs.  “Liar,” she says.  “You sleep in a t-shirt that your college ultimate Frisbee team won off your arch-rivals.  You still remember watching those losers peel their shirts off.  When you come over, you’re going to bring it with you.  You don’t like to sleep naked.  You don’t much like sleeping except when you’re alone, but in the morning, you’re going to wake me to tell me that you’ve never fallen asleep faster.  And that trust is an issue for you, usually.”

“Uncanny,” he says blandly.

He muffles the phone and she hears him talking.

“Hello?” she says.

“Hello,” he says.

“Are you with someone?” she asks.

His voice is muffled again.  She makes out “that girl.”

He’s back.  “Hey,” he says, all muscle and charm.

She’s not sure if this changes things or not, but it seems even more important to find out.

“Taking guys away from other women; it’s kind of my specialty,” she says.

The other woman is still talking, and Zizi imagines someone older, maybe European.  A woman who feels many things in comprehensive ways.

He’s silent, and she’s not sure how long she should wait.  She pulls the covers up, and says to the ceiling, “What are you doing?”  She lies there, a stupid, graceless thing, and then she hangs up.

The summer she was twelve, she volunteered at a day camp for preschoolers.  One little girl had driven all the counselors crazy with her neediness andwhining.  No one but Zizi could comfort her, and not even she could do it consistently.  Some days, her tricks worked, other days, they didn’t.  But when they worked, she felt like something real had been accomplished, and both girls went home feeling better about themselves.

By the end of the summer, the girl had grown up a little, gotten better at handling her own needs.  Zizi doesn’t remember the circumstances, but she does remember the dark, private corner of the playground where she slapped the girl’s hand in order for there to be tears, in order for there to be the need for comfort.  She remembers the girl after some hesitation allowing herself to receive the care offered even from the person who had created its need.  Over the years, the moment has come back to her often enough to indicate something, but Zizi doesn’t know what.


When he shows up at her door, she doesn’t know whether to feel triumphant or pathetic.  She decides on triumphant and lets him in.

“Where’s your friend?” she asks.

He’s wearing pressed jeans and a fitted white t-shirt.  He doesn’t look anything like thrown together.  “Like you,” he says.  “Sad, angry and all alone.”

A small motor whirs to life in her chest while he smiles and tilts his head at her.  “I’m not alone,” she says.

They stand there.  Outside, dawn is creeping over the buildings.  The apartment is the blue of deep water.  Upstairs, Mabel is walking around.  She’s up at this hour every day.  The guy looks at Zizi.  She can’t read his expression.

“Uh-uh,” he says.  “No changing your mind now.”

She feels like she’s the apartment with more rooms than she knew she had.  Doors close inside of her.

“What am I thinking now?” she asks him.  She really wants to know.

He moves toward her without answering.  Here she was believing she was taking a curtain call, and it turns out the show is over, the audience gone.

“Listen,” she begins, but one of his hands gently covers her mouth and his other circles her arm.

“If I scream, Mabel will hear me,” she says through his fingers.

He takes his hand away and waves his fingers.  “You’re not going to scream,” he says.  “Even you know that.”

She has no idea what’s next.  “I want you to leave,” she says.

He drops his hand and stares.  “No, you don’t,” he says, as if speaking to a child he’s decided to treat like an adult.

“Poor Mamie Eisenhower,” he says, lifting her nightshirt up and over her head.  “Doesn’t even know what she wants.”  He gentles her down to the floor, and then stands to undress.  She could get up.  She lies there, watching him.

Naked, he lowers himself on top of her, spreading her legs with his knees.  He presses his weight along her and stops his face so close to hers that it hurts to look at him.  “Do you want to know?” he asks.

He shifts his hips and he’s inside of her.

She hooks one leg over his back and twists, trying to turn them over.  He won’t let her.  He smiles like he can’t be surprised, pulls her arms up over her head, puts her wrists in one of his hands, and quiets her.

She’s crying.  She can’t believe she’s crying in front of this asshole.  But she wants to hear what he’s got to say, and that makes her cry harder.

He licks her tears from the corners of her eyes with tiny movements.  His mouth settles against the curves of her ear.

He pushes into her, and her skin chafes against the floor.  He’s stopped talking.  As soon as she wraps her legs around him he rolls off, lying on his back beside her.  They both lie there looking up at the ceiling.

“Mabel’s awake,” he says.

Zizi imagines her looking through a hole in her floor, taking in the scene.  Some girls are idiots, Zizi thinks.

“Mabel seems to be doing pretty well,” he says.  He brushes a finger absently down her belly and between her legs.  She shivers at its offhanded intimacy.  “Don’t you think?” he asks.

“I wouldn’t know,” she says.

“Exactly,” he says.  “Poor Zizi.  Spends her life being the tower, when all she’s ever wanted is to be the plane.”

Her heart pitches in her chest.  “Nice simile,” she manages.  “Weren’t you his friend?”

“Weren’t you?” he says.  He seems to lose interest in the question even as he’s asking it.

Years ago, a professor had guessed what high school she had gone to, and Zizi would not believe that he hadn’t checked her file, that he didn’t have inside information.  He had laughed and had told her that maybe she wasn’t the enigma she imagined herself to be.  The possibility had thrilled and shaken her.

Ray’s nonchalance is like a wave receding to reveal the hard, wet sand that she already knew would be there.  The effortlessness of his understanding and the indifference that accompanies it breaks her heart.

She gets on top of him.

“Back for more?” he asks.

She presses her chest to his.  From above, she thinks, Mabel would see a weighty, solid thing.

He teases at her mouth with his own.  He wets his finger and runs it down the center of her rear.  He puts his finger inside her.

He smells of wet fur.  She tucks her legs up alongside him like some kind of infant marsupial, and apologizes silently to the world.  She’s sorry, she doesn’t know any better.  She knows this to be both the truth and its opposite.

“At least I know that,” she says out loud.

“What?” he asks.

She doesn’t answer.  She sits up and reaches around for his hand.  “Show me,” she says, pushing his finger into his own mouth and holding it there.  A small sound escapes him, maybe one of surprise, and they begin the song and dance, and if Mabel asks, she’ll tell her we can mourn the flawed; we can, and we do.