When I recount things, sometimes they are blurred by my filter; my emotion at the time of recall. I understand that the way to get an extra brownie is to walk in the room the grinning ingenue. I watch them breathe as we continue to talk. I watch their shoulders slag. I watch their faces change into suns and smiles and laughter.  But I’m of bitten tongue recalcitrance. This is called “walking the tightrope.” When I recall things, I must remember if temper came into play, if anxiety was near, or if I was a gymnast doing cartwheels for the crowd. The confluence of each part of me is what creates the story. I must remember which part I played. What I will remember about this man is that when he poured the hot water, he smiled at me in a fatherly way, and that I was not the coquettish mouse trapping cats in the basement, but the helpless girl in the dark gripping horror films to stop her wailing.
“Yeah, we had a lot of fun.”
He put the kettle on the table and sat back down. I was visibly nervous, fidgety. I kept placing my palms face down on the table and pressing them into the wood. Then, I would retract them and place my palms together and then place them on the top of my thighs. It’s hard to do this without being noticed.
“You left your straw by the door.”
“Yeah.”
“Do you need it?”
I looked down at my hands on my thighs getting ready to start the cycle again.
“No.”
I did.
“Tell me more about yourself. Your name?”
“Ava.”
“Ava.”
“My cat is Genevieve. We live a few blocks from here, alone.”
“And you walked here?’
“Yes, I tried to go to the stores and they were already raided or locked. I started walking and then I got kind of turned around, lost, then scared.”
“And you came here?”
I dug my nails into my pants wishing my tips were longer or my layers were less.
“I panicked. Looked for light. The knob was unlocked. I was going to knock if it wasn’t. I may have been imagining the people. It’s cold and dark out there.”
“You don’t have any friends, you said?”
“I just moved here a couple months ago. I have one friend but we don’t know each other well and my dad is sick in Virginia.”
He nodded and stroked his beard. The habit seemed old. He probably didn’t realize he was doing it.
“My phone died.”
“Did you bring it with you?’
“No,” I shook my head, forlorn. “I wasn’t thinking. Is your phone working?”
“A little. I have been keeping in touch with my wife and kids. It’s a mess out there.”
I nodded.
“My dad is dead.”
“How do you know?”
He leaned forward.
“He’s on oxygen, lost power right away, no one to help him really. It’s a long shot. I would have driven but I don’t have  a car.”
Let yourself sob. A tear formed in my eye and I studied his table. Red wood like mahogany, old, antique. His wife’s. Too big to take west.
“Where is your wife again?”
He didn’t answer and instead stared at me. I deserve consolation, true, but here comes the fit of rage. I was a spool of tumult and if you pull me right, you get what you get. Let yourself cry.
“Texas.’
“Texas?’
I looked up surprised. I wasn’t expecting that.
“Got a better job. Can’t complain now,” he shrugged. “My kids are safe. If the airports weren’t closed, I’d fly out.”
“You don’t drive?”
Don’t react to anything he says. I was done crying if that’s what that was. The rage had passed. The storm. I heard sirens.
“Curfew,” he plainly stated.
Don’t react to anything he says.

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