Synchronic Conversations: a Tragedy in Triptych

by Dan Reiter

At an Outdoor Café on the Bowery

He talks and she taps ideograms and slides her thumbs and lets slip her tongue and nods as if thrown into distraction by each word, and when he is done she waits a long time before responding, and what she says is yes, yes, but she does not necessarily mean it, and he sips his wine and expounds while she scrolls and makes little amused decisions and clicks her knuckles and sets her thoughts down for a moment on the table to look him in his eyes—which makes him smile, though he does not realize why he is smiling—and in that moment they are happy, though it is a fidgety, impalpable sort of happiness, and it flits away as soon as he catches sight of his fingers again and tilts his head with some new interest. She tries to blink away this itch or this notion that something vital has gone missing or dead, and though the night is cool and comfortable it is not real, nor is the waiter's face anything more than a half-reflected mask, as if why should anyone be expected to believe in this wine glass, or a black-eared shih-tzu strutting the sidewalk, or this amorous couple under the heat lamps?

In the Master Bedroom of an Apartment near the Place des Vosges

"You remember Adèle? My friend in Auvergne? You remember, she had a daughter?"

"Yes, yes."

"You couldn't stop looking at her down in Cannes. At the pool."


"Well, she is dead. Two days now."

"Ploof," he says. "That's hideous."

She adjusts her pillow, smooths back her silver ponytail. Her face glows in blue light. "Hideous?" she says, mocking. "The whole world is in horror."

The gray fox's hair is unbrushed, yet elegant. Just now he is horribly busy. He taps his reading glasses. A minute passes. She says, "Can you fetch me a glass of water?" His face twitches.

"It's my throat. I feel like crying," she says. "Comme ça. And the child is gone."

"The child?" He leans forward so as to concentrate better on what she is not saying. His face glows too, as if he is sitting at an airplane window. "What happened to the child?"

"Oh là là, I speak to a wall. Adèle's daughter, a grown woman—she was twenty-eight years old."

"Ah, Adèle's daughter. She was sick, no?"

She sighs, and it is the type of sigh heard only in certain arrondisements of Paris, and only on summer afternoons. "You remember her, the pretty one, with the yellow bikini and the big nostrils. The daughter of Adèle. Look!"

He lifts his head reluctantly. Regards the daughter of Adèle.

"This was a couple of days ago," she says. "On the bridge at Avignon. A beautiful girl."

"Yes, yes," he says. "And what happened to her child?"

"Alors, you old fool! She is dead, this one!" She taps the girl's face with her painted fingernail, and the gray fox—sickened both by the terrible news and by the callousness of the delivery—flings off the covers.

"What are you doing?"

"Getting water."

"Why are you getting dressed?" she says a few minutes later.

"I told you already. I'm going home tonight."

He had not told her this. But here is Adèle's daughter on the bridge at Avignon, and here she is with some girlfriends at a café. And here she is smiling in sunglasses on the veranda with a cat in her lap.

He leaves before she has time to think of the words that would make him undress and stay. Tout le monde is in horror.

Here is Adèle's daughter on the bridge at Avignon.

At a Backyard Pool Party: Winter Haven, Florida

They stand on tanned legs in a pocket of shade under the Christmas palms, shooing skeeters off their blonde heads, snapping gum, shifting from leg to leg, heads bowed like pasture animals.

"Have you seen Delancey?"




"She must have run around the side with the others. "

"Check out what Trisha posted last night."

"That thing with Kyle on the couch?"

"Is that inappropriate or what?"

"It's totally."

"Talk about a hot mess."

"What does Kyle's girlfriend think?"

"Who knows. It's entertainment, anyway."

"Did you want me to go help you look around or what?"

"My god, look at this one Kelly just put up."

"Oh, that's classic."

"Look at that hair!"

Their heads touch and they snicker and blink over Kelly's hair as it stood in the early 90s—a stiff, glittering wave swept high off the forehead—and when they break apart to resume their swaying, praying dance, they curry their heads in shared bewilderment, not at the little girl bubbling at the bottom of the pool, but at the image of Trisha and Kyle on the couch and how thrilling it must feel to be so reckless.

BIO: Dan Reiter harbors atavistic impulses, like wielding a flip phone and reading the newspaper at breakfast. He serves fresh-squeezed orange juice and vodka every Friday at www.dan-reiter.com.