We were in a seafood restaurant. Herman was chewing a mussel, over and over. I asked him if it was okay. ‘No,’ he said. ‘It’s tough. Like meat. I want to spit it.’

‘Then spit it,’ I said. I looked around for him. ‘No one’s watching us.’

‘A pity,’ he said. Why, he asked, did we bother dressing up if no one should be paying us any attention.

That night, in the cab home, I told him the only thing we’d talked about all night had been the mussel meat. He was looking away, out of the window, at the skyline: the looming buildings, towering, edged in neon; hundreds and hundreds of small windows, each of them an opening into a drama.

© Barry Lee Thompson and ‘Stories, by Barry Lee Thompson’, 2013.

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