The woman took up her clipboard and began to write with a pen that was tied to the end of one of the strings.

No need to apologize, she said. Her handwriting was pretty, rounded and small. Bradley reached for the pen—May I? his raised eyebrows asked—and she let him have the clipboard. Something about the fact that she was writing made him want to write. Monkey see, monkey do.

Shouldn’t you be home drinking tea with honey? he scrawled, his own left-handed cursive barely legible.

Please, no more tea, she wrote back. No voice for 9 days. You realize how much tea that is?

9 days? he wrote. Perhaps you should see a doctor! He handed her the pad.

I am a doctor, she said, and he blinked. She smiled and resumed writing. What’s your name?

“Bradley,” he said out loud, his voice unfamiliar in his own ear.

She nodded and turned away. She was wearing a strapless black dress and had a simple mother-of-pearl bracelet clasped about her writing wrist. But by far her most striking feature was her neck—long, bone-white, flawless. Who knew what a throat like that might be capable of saying, if only it worked. She turned and caught his eye.

Why don't you get us a couple of drinks?

Half an hour later, the air was hotter, the music louder, and the room more crowded. The party had become its own throbbing cocoon. Bradley and Samantha still stood near the center of the living room, passing the clipboard between themselves, only now they were also juggling colossal martinis. At one point a passerby had observed their antics and shouted, “Get a blackboard, you two!” Bradley was actually having a good time. Sharing the clipboard with Samantha gave him a sense of stillness within the swirl of the party; it was like being in the eye of a storm, like being plugged in to the same iPod. Best of all, it made him feel as if the unspoken in him were connecting with the unspoken in her, and it crossed his mind that this was all chemistry ever was: two people’s silent selves invisibly aligning while their noisy selves carried on, oblivious.

~This story may be read in its entirety in the Summer 2007 issue of the Antioch Review.~


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