(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A man waiting at an airline ticket counter sees a beautiful, black-haired young woman and stares at her in an openly admiring way. She sees him and looks away. Later, while having a drink in the airport bar, he sees her again, this time talking to a blond woman. He wants to attract her attention and buy her a drink, but he cannot catch her eye. The third time he sees her, he is buying a magazine, and she jostles him. When he remarks, “busy place,” she blushes, frowns, and vanishes in the crowd.

This seems like the end of the encounter, until the man reaches in his back pocket for his wallet and realizes that it is missing. He thinks about the credit cards, the money, and the identification in it, and all at once knows that the black-haired woman has picked his pocket. As he considers the difficult process of canceling the cards and getting new identification, he feels suffocated and wonders what he should do. He curses the woman for pretending to be attentive to him, for letting herself stand so close, and for blushing—not out of shyness—but out of anxiety over being caught. Just as he decides to report the incident to a guard, he sees the woman sitting in the terminal reading a book.

When the man sits down and says he has been looking for her, she claims that she does not know him and accuses him of trying to pick her up. He accuses her of stealing his wallet and demands its return. Although the woman first denies it, she then takes a...

(The entire section is 430 words.)