The sanitation trucks gather from around the city. They bear down on the narrow residential streets of Queens, moving masses of slush and debris from the past week’s back-to-back storms, opening the roads just enough for official vehicles to move about the borough for the first time in days.

Deirdre presses her dry, cracked lower lip beneath her front teeth. She stares out the window and waits, not sure if the plows, after completing a pass on her block, will open the sidewalk enough for her to walk to Queens Boulevard. She worries, gnawing at what little remains of her fingernails.

She adjusts her burnt orange wool cap, pulling its sides below her ears, and searches the living room for her gloves and scarf.  Her jacket is hung at the ready, on the hook at the kitchen entrance where she hurriedly placed it the night before.

Brett said that he’d be there.

He promised he’d be there.

But Brett makes promises and breaks them, and frankly he hasn’t been close to predictable in months.

What happens if I trudge the five blocks and there’s no one at Aldo’s Diner? What happens if he comes across that Vanessa girl before I get there, and she’s ready with herself and the heroin?

She bites her lip; bites harder.

The telephone has been disconnected. If Brett changes his mind, there will be no telling her.

As the sanitation truck passes, she rushes to the door, gathering jacket, gloves, and scarf on the way. The cat shrieks as Deirdre steps on its tail. She whispers “sorry” and darts into the cold.

He needs me, she thinks. It’s okay that he’s using, for now. I can change that, but if I’m not there for him, it’s only the drug, or that Vanessa and the drug.

The snow fall eases. The thick sop of wet on the lawns and sidewalks proves more difficult than she expected.

Wrong shoes. Dear God, why did I grab these flats? What was I thinking?

The cold wet seeps into her socks and wicks into toes and heels.

The street fills with flashes of police cruiser blues. Orange and red ambulance lights scatter reds and yellows against the gray asbestos sided buildings.

She thinks of Brett’s needs and knows she isn’t—at least in his present state of mind—among them.

Go, she thinks.

Get to him.

Believe he’s there.

Trust that whatever shape he’s in, I can be present. Being with him will have to do—it’s all I’ve got.

She trips, pressing through the slush, and falls against a section of icy, black slate. The sharp blow at her elbow, like the strike of a ball-peen hammer, races to her head, down her back, and back to her arm.


She rises and cradles the elbow in her hand. Wrapping her scarf in a makeshift sling, she sets it against her stomach. Redoubling her efforts, she moves toward the boulevard.

And with little reason, other than a faint sense that he is vital—exactly how or why she doesn’t know—she keeps on.