Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 692
Polly, an artist, is home alone in her apartment, recovering from mononucleosis. Donald, who works with her at Ground Zero Graphics, has agreed to stop by her apartment regularly after work to bring her food and a few work assignments. Donald usually stays to visit and chat with Polly, telling her what he will be preparing for dinner for his girlfriend, Louisa, and himself, how their diets are going, and what is going on at work. He even begins to share with Polly the problems that are surfacing between him and Louisa. Donald is unaware that Polly has fallen in love with him, that she stares out of her window at his apartment, and that she has begun to tell herself stories every night about him and Louisa.
One night Donald brings Polly broth, bread, cottage cheese, and cheesecake. For himself and Louisa, he plans to broil red snapper with leeks, mushrooms, and spices. He envies Polly her cheesecake, and she wants to offer him a piece, but is afraid that he will resent her encouraging him to go off his diet.
Although Donald and Louisa have lived together for an unspecified length of time, Louisa has decided that they have become too much of a couple. She has no interest in marrying Donald; Donald’s feelings on the subject are never specified. When pressed, Louisa admits that she wants to have an affair with Phillipe, a French teacher at the private high school at which she teaches English. In a desperate attempt to stop her, Donald offers to send off his portfolio and application to graduate school if she promises not to have the affair, to which Louisa agrees. To celebrate, Donald suggests that they go out for cheesecake, to which Louisa, reluctant but giggling, agrees.
Polly continues to obsess about Donald. She has had only one serious relationship in her life—with a strange computer programmer who ate frozen food without thawing it out. He moved to Boston but still calls her in the middle of the night. Polly assumed that when she fell in love again it would be with another man with a bizarre personality and is confused by her attraction to Donald. Still her obsession grows. She begins illustrating her nightly stories about Donald and Louisa in a special sketchbook. Phillipe eventually begins to appear in the illustrations, but Polly never includes herself. Her drawings are meticulously detailed, except that they show Louisa as heavier than she really is.
One night, Donald returns to his apartment and tells Louisa that he has been accepted into the fine arts program to which he applied. She gives him a hug and he kisses her, but suddenly stops and accuses her of having gone through with her intended affair. Admitting that this is so, she angrily leaves the room and starts washing dishes while he reminds her that he has kept his part of their bargain. Donald is determined to wait Louisa out, hoping that she will want to save their relationship. They continue their domestic arrangement, never mentioning Phillipe, but they have no emotional or sexual connection.
Two days before Polly is due to return to work, Donald brings her sausages, salad, and eclairs. She wonders if she will still love Donald after she returns to work, and if he could ever love her, or whether he will always associate her with sickness. When Donald tells her that he hopes to illustrate children’s books after he gets his masters degree, she is disappointed; she would prefer to work on pornographic animated films herself.
Donald finally leaves Polly’s apartment to go home and prepare a small steak with salad and green peas for himself and Louisa. Polly fills the final pages of her sketchbook with pictures of Louisa, now thin but graceless, packing to move out. That night, Louisa tells Donald she is planning to move in with Phillipe. Before packing, however, Louisa washes the dishes. Donald goes to the bedroom and stares despondently out the window in the direction of Polly’s building, where she is drawing the scene that he has not yet described to her.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support