excerpt from Penny Lane:
At the laundromat Starbucks I sat at a table across from the game where you move the metal claw around and try to catch a stuffed animal. Soon after I started to work, a little girl with wispy white-blonde hair climbed up onto the chair next to mine, stared at me and stared at my computer. She was maybe four and I told her I liked her sundress, which was pink with blotchy blue flowers. When she said “Thank you” five seconds later it sounded like an afterthought, like she’d just remembered you’re supposed to say “Thank you” when a grown-up says something nice. I felt proud of her for remembering, and not entirely because I so intensely value politeness.
Her mom came to get her a minute later and it took us a few seconds to realize we knew each other: we’d worked together at my first job in California; she was a painter and I once went to see an exhibition of hers on a Friday night in Chinatown. She had a new baby boy in her arms and she told me her kids’ names. The girl was Charlie and when she opened her yogurt parfait the granola spilled all over my legs and my keyboard and I tried to do a good job of appearing unfazed, which I was.
The mom and I talked a while but her baby got fussy and pretty soon they all had to leave. We said goodbye and they walked away but Charlie turned around and ran back over to me, asked “Will you remember me next time you see me, ‘cause she told you my name?” I nodded and made my eyes bigger, for encouragement. “Yes,” I said. “You’re Charlie! I’ll remember.”