Impersonal You

A redhead enters the restaurant. She slowly turns, looks at the man. The man, who sits across the table from a blond, stops speaking. Mid-sentence. The blond squashes out her cigarette in the man's saucer and waits. When he turns back, she speaks, sending quick, jabbing blasts of gray smoke into his face. "I don't see the signs," she says, feigning surprise.

"On the door," he says. "On the way in. It's the law. People are trying to eat, you know." He slides the smoking saucer in front of her, where her plate has been. "More coffee?" he says.

"There must be a word for it," she says, "something fancy like A.D.D. or typhoid or something." She dredges her purse for another cigarette. "I'm naming it C.R.S."

"What are you doing?" he says. She lifts her lighter. This time she tightens her lips and blows a thin arrow of smoke.

"Can't help it," she says. "I have C.R.S. That's code for Can't. Read. Signs. Many women are afflicted."

"Let's go," he says, looking now for their waitress, for the check.

Her eyes widen cartoonlike and her index finger swings like the excited needle of a Geiger counter. "'Let's'? Is that 'let us,' as in you and me?" Then she says it again, raising her eyebrows, pointing first at him then at herself. "You? And me? Or are you using the words loosely, like indiscriminate people use the word 'you'? It's called 'the impersonal you,' when the you really means I?" He periscopes for their server. "It's one of many ways people blur the truth," she says, taking a hard pull on the fresh one.

From the booth behind her, a female voice says, "Do you mind!"

The woman raises her eyes to the ceiling. "Yoo-who. Listen up, girlfriend," she says. "This is a test. Ready? Listen carefully, sweetheart. Here goes: Can you tell me what's wrong with this sentence? 'Sleeping with my boyfriend is an experience you'll never forget.' See a problem with that sentence?"

The man's eyes dart this way and that.

"Put it out," the other woman says.

"I'd bet you do, sister," she says, dumping her ashes. "Take a number, little girl."