The last cable car for the night. A man with a hat slouches in the back. A woman swings on, demure, pulling the skirt over her knees as she presses herself against the side of the car. They get off at the same time; him bending against the hill as he pulls himself up the street, her peeling off on the downhill, heels clacking on the pavement. The clang of the bell, grind of the wheels on track, and she forgot her purse. She hollers at the brakeman, and the other man hears; only the lonely hear her cry. He turns, frowns, sees her waving at the disappearing car. It rounds the corner and the only sound is the grinding, the clanging, then just her clattering heels. “Wait! Wait! My purse!”
“My dear,” he says, close to her elbow. He hasn’t run like that in…
Well no, he’s not running at all.
“My dear,” he shouts from the top of the hill. “I have your purse! I lifted it as we disembarked. I wanted some remembrance of your lovely countenance. I would have returned it, after giving it a rattle through, just to sniff your powder, just to see myself in the small mirror of your compact. I have your purse!” But she doesn’t hear. She disappears too, and he lowers the hand he had waved, slips it into his pocket.
He has no purse.
He’s too tired to run after.
He presses upward, past the corner grocery—all the lemons and limes and oranges covered for the night—past the dry cleaner and video store and the dark windows of the sleeping city; all the city a dark shuttered window.