Nora Bonner


She likes girls, her profile said. I like girls. In a city this small that is something. She likes movies and I like movies. She likes music and I like music. In a city this small, that is enough to send a message.

She likes Thai food and Thai food is okay with me. She’s wearing the blue tank top just like she promised, but it takes me a moment to find her because I pictured baby blue and she’s wearing something between royal and navy. I imagined her taller and her eyebrows thicker. Her hair’s parted way to the left, a little too far in my opinion, and she’s bunched it into a thick dark ponytail.

“When did you cut your hair?” she asks when I sit down. I tell her, about three months ago. She doesn’t tell me it looks good.

I chose Happy Thai and Sushi based on the reviews: four and a half spoons. She chooses green curry. She lived in Thailand years ago, she tells me between chews of eggplant. According to her, Thai people don’t really like Japanese food. She is basing this on a Thai girl she knew, who dumped a Japanese guy because he couldn’t eat spicy food.

“Sounds like there’s more to it,” I said. I don’t tell her spicy food is just okay with me.

The fresh chilis burn through me as we walk off the curry and the mango and the sticky rice. We round the small lake in the center of a small park at the center of our small city.

I ask her, “What kinds of music do you like?” and she says, “All kinds.”

“What are some of your favorites?” I ask, stepping around where the geese have left their oily excrement all over the sidewalk: black and green paint squeezed out of a tube on fresh concrete. She can’t think of any favorites.

“Do you like elevator music?” She doesn’t laugh. “What about country music? Modern Jazz? Rap? Pop music on the radio?”

“Sometimes,” she says to all or none of these, and she can’t name a radio station.

We part for the woman pushing a sleeping baby in a stroller and reunite at the center of the path. I ask her if she plays music and she says, “Play?”

“An instrument,” I say.

She says, “No.”

“What about that?” I say, nodding at the drum circle near the gazebo. “Do you like that?”

“It’s not really music,” she says.

“What is music?” I say.

We walk a bit more. I tell her I’m not feeling well, which is not at all a lie. I leave her in front of a mama duck leading her fuzzy offspring into the algae.

On the way to my car, I stop at the drum circle. The sound sways my hips. My feet plant and will not budge. I dance like a palm tree. I dance like the woman I am, aching and aging, and swinging my arms in a clunky pendulum.

She’s behind me now. The ducks are to my back. She may or may not be watching.


Nora Bonner’s stories have appeared in various journals, including Shenandoah, the North American Review, the Bellingham Review, and Best American Non-Required Reading. She was runner up for the Indiana Review’s 2014 Fiction Contest.