Rogin, a research chemist entering middle age, is on his way one Sunday evening to have supper with Joan, his fiancé. When she asked him on the telephone to buy some food, he feebly asked what happened to the money he already gave her. He begins to ponder his relationship with Joan. Although beautiful and aristocratic, she is not working and cannot—or will not—support herself without Rogin’s help. As he is paying off her debts, she is buying expensive, frivolous presents for him and her sister, Phyllis. However, Rogin thinks, he loves her too much to complain.
At the delicatessen, Rogin is pleased by the smells of the foods and the general aromas of life itself. He admires the counterman who admonishes a Puerto Rican boy in a cowboy hat about to knock over a display. As he buys the food, Rogin recalls how difficult Joan is but also how beautiful. Descending into the subway, he overhears a brief conversation between two men, one of whom confesses to the other that he is an alcoholic currently on a miracle cure. The conversation prompts Rogin to recall his own desperate need for more money.
Seated on the speeding train, Rogin observes his fellow passengers. He sees two little girls with their mothers, each with the same kind of muff, and he notes the annoyance of the mothers and the little girls’ complacency. A strange-looking foreign family next engages his attention. The mother is old and worn out, the son looks like a dishwasher....
(The entire section is 509 words.)