Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1402
Keith enters the park and he is struck by how ordinary everything seems. He is carrying the briefcase and wants to turn back; he passes the tennis courts and wants to throw the offending object in the reservoir. Once he reaches her apartment building, he climbs the six flights of stairs and knocks on her door. She is a little wary but lets him in as he starts to explain that he had not meant to wait so long to return the briefcase, which he had tried to express on the phone yesterday. She explains that she had not canceled the credit cards because she thought the entire bag was lost in the rubble. The woman is about his age, a light-skinned black woman; she offers him some water. He tells her he found her name in the directory but did not think to check her name against the other list to see if she was alive. There is a pause, and he asks if she would like to make sure everything is still in the briefcase. Quickly she says no.
They make small talk about where they work and Keith prepares to leave; one hand is on the doorknob and the other is on the briefcase. She smiles as he realizes his error, done out of habit, he supposes. They relax and she waves him to a seat on the couch, where she serves him tea and cookies. Her name is Florence Givens; since that day, she has done nothing but sit in her apartment. An hour later they are still talking. She had been looking at her computer screen but did not hear the plane until she was thrown under her desk—it happened that quickly. A friend from Philadelphia called just at that moment and had no idea what had happened; she wanted to talk about an upcoming visit. Florence remembers being wet from the sprinklers, men tearing their shirts and using the cloth for masks. She was one of many trying to escape down the stairwells, holding on to one another in the dense smoke.
It is clear to Keith that Florence has not talked about the event in such detail before now, and perhaps she can do so with him because he was there and understands. Once she stumbled and fell and she felt panic at the thought of being trampled, but an elderly man helped her up and talked to her until she was able to again move with the crowd. There were flames in the elevator. Someone said he thought it was an earthquake. Water was passed up the stairwell from below, and firemen were running up the stairs into the smoke and fire. Florence saw one of the maintenance men she used to tease with running up the stairs with a crowbar, perhaps to pry open the elevators. Keith remembers seeing the same man with a hard hat on his head, and it seems somehow important that he had been brought from the smoke and terror into this room today. Keith lights a cigarette for her and she begins the story again. He is ready to listen again carefully, to find himself in the crowd.
Nina warned Lianne about the kind of man who is the “model of dependability” with his male friends and is all the things a friend should be—but is “hell on wheels” for women. That is exactly the man Lianne married in Keith. Now he is a “hovering presence” in her life. He spends his days doing ritualistic exercises to strengthen his injured wrist and spending time with his son, who loves nothing more than to play catch until he is exhausted. Lianne is beginning to see a man she never knew before.
Dr. Harold Apter is a consulting physician for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and Lianne periodically drops off the writings from her group. Today she tells the doctor she would like to increase the number of meetings to twice a week, but he tells her to make it about them, not her. They should not feel as if there is an urgency to say and write everything before it is too late; they should look forward to their time together, not feel threatened.
In the next meeting they express their fears...
(The entire section contains 1402 words.)
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