When Lori makes her second pot of coffee on Tuesday, she notices that she always refills the glass canister of grounds when it is only half empty. So how long has that coffee in the bottom been there, really? Does the coffee remember Sean? How he scooped with his left hand?

Lori’s younger brother Dexter is a cop. He also has a thing about taxi drivers, says that if anyone were going to go around killing people, it would be easiest to be a taxi driver and do it. Lori doesn’t ride in taxis much, but if she does, she always thinks Well gosh, this could be the last thing I do I guess.

There are several men who come over, a short but rotating list. None of them are Sean and that is what twists her. She knows going into all of it/having all of them go into her that none of this will work, but it never matters until it’s all half over/half empty.

Dexter busts a meth lab by walking into someone’s house with a gun held backwards pointed at his chest (accidentally, Lori’s mother emphasizes when she tells the story, if she tells the story). But the people still scream and stand still and her brother arrests them. That’s how meth is made, he tells her afterwards, not having told her much.

The only man she has ever let refill her coffee canister is the man she is still trying to replace. And none of these new men (of average height, of slight beard, generally left-handed) can do it. As in: she does not want them to do it. She is waiting for Sean, has kept the hazelnut creamer in the refrigerator for him, although it curdled months ago.

Dexter is married to this nice girl Trish who grew up on a farm and says a lot of weird things about cows whenever no one else is speaking at a dinner. Lori’s family guesses Trish isn’t comfortable with quiet. But the cow stuff is weird and Dexter laughs about it when his wife isn’t around. Lori wonders what it was Sean laughed about when she was not around.

She wonders if she does anything else as much as make coffee. Maybe use the bathroom. She makes around four pots of coffee a day. She maybe uses the bathroom six times, but sometimes less. Maybe check her phone when she is at work to make sure Sean hadn’t called. She makes around four pots of coffee a day. She checks her phone maybe once every two hours.

When they were growing up, she and her brother both liked to ride in the car with their heads out the back windows, gulping up the air. Once her brother choked on it and they laughed so hard they cried. You choked on air, Lori had yelled, which is pretty much nothing!

Again at the coffee maker: again Lori stares at the bottom of the canister, shovels coffee into the machine from the top. The bottom third could have been there even before she met Sean. She thinks about emptying the whole thing, but does not. Why does she do this?

Dexter comes over to the house and brings a cake, something white with colored frosting. She asks what for and he says because he’s heard she’d been on a date with someone new. Oh, I do that every weekend, but it’s not really dating. He looks at her hard. You gotta get over the thing you can’t get over, he tells her before leaving. She eats two pieces of cake and feels sick, then drinks some coffee and doesn’t feel as sick. At night, she sleeps with the window open because that way she hears the city outside. Nothing is like Sean’s snoring, but car alarms aren’t bad.

Her brother the cop arrests a man for being drunk in public in the park at two in the afternoon. When he tells her about it, she asks what the man was wearing and her brother looks at her and asks why. Because he sounds like someone I would like, Lori says.

Half of the cake is still on her counter, but she shoves it in the trash. She is scared of getting fat, scared of being ugly, in case Sean arrives suddenly at her door confessing all his mistakes and getting on his hands and knees and shuffling forward weirdly to her. She walks across the kitchen to look out the peephole of her door. Then she comes back, takes the cake out of the trash, and eats another piece. Sean isn’t coming/Sean hasn’t come.

The son of the people who had run the meth lab comes to visit Dexter at the station and says his parents’ lives are ruined now. Her brother the cop just stares at the boy. He wants to point out that their lives were already ruined because of the whole meth thing, but he doesn’t say anything. Lori, hearing him tell the story, remembers when she was young enough to worry about other peoples’ lives being ruined, young enough to not realize it could also happen to her.

Another day, another four pots of coffee, another six trips to the bathroom. Another night of car alarms. Another day at work without a call from anyone but Trish (about a dog show on television) or her mother (about Trish). Another another another why does she do this another why does an she other do this

Dexter asks if Lori remembers the way they used to stick their heads out the back window of the car and drink the air. Do you remember when you choked on it, she says, the air. No what, that never happened, he says and looks at her funny.

“What about the boy whose parents ran the meth lab?” her brother asks her. “What should I tell him if he comes back?” Lori shrugs: “I don’t know, tell him everyone’s life is ruined and at least his parents have a marketable skill.”

She has a dream that Sean comes and takes her out for Chinese and tells her he still loves her too and she turns into old coffee grounds before he can touch her with his left hand or with any hand at all. Sean stays at the table and eats his chow fun while looking at her brown, caffeinated remains.

Dexter rescues a dog from a tree and tells jokes about it for a while. Then Lori tells him the dog stuff is getting to be kind of like his wife’s cow stuff and the family makes fun of him when he isn’t there, which isn’t true yet but could become true.

She stands at the coffee maker and pours the whole canister into the machine until everything is covered, including the counter, and the old coffee that has never left the canister is in or on the machine. When she starts the cycle, the whole machine shudders, breaks, and she doesn’t have coffee for three days before she buys another.

Sister-in-law Trish comes over. This time, there is no cake. The women look at each other a lot out of the sides of their eyes and talk about nothing. How is the dating going? Then they talk about the cows.

Lori brings some more men home and watches them see her apartment for the first or the last time and wonders what they see. Do they know she has a brother who is a cop? Maybe he’s pulled them over for speeding. Do they know her brother choked on the air once? Do they know she’d broken the coffee machine? Do they use hazelnut creamer? Does she seem lonely, to them? Does she seem lonely to herself?

Trish tells Lori she needs to do small things to make herself happy. She says that when she used to get sad, she would put up sticky notes in bright colors around her house with positive sayings. Lori tries it after Trish leaves. She ends up with two orange post-its on her headboard that say Be happy. There is also one on the mirror above her bathroom sink that says No, be happier. Lori takes them all down before anyone comes over and sees them and thinks she isn’t happy. But also, what did Trish mean about she “used to get sad,” like she doesn’t get sad anymore?

Dexter meets a taxi driver who is nice to him at a bar and decides that not all taxi drivers are criminals or want to be. He tells his sister it is probably okay to take taxis now. She nods like it is something she might do.

Sean used to take Lori to the park where Dexter had arrested that drunk man and pet dogs without her. Lori didn’t really “get” dogs. So Sean would walk around and pet dogs he found and ask their owners lots of questions that made them smile, and Lori would sit on a bench and look back at their apartment and wonder if she left the coffee maker on and if the building would burn down.

She tries to go to the park once after Sean leaves, but she sees one of the dog owners that he had talked to a lot and the lady asks where Sean is. Lori asks where the lady’s dog is. The lady says the dog died of diabetes. Lori tells her Sean has also died of diabetes and walks home without saying goodbye.

Dexter and Trish take her to lunch one day on her break from work. It is a Chinese place and Lori keeps wondering if she will turn to coffee grounds like in her dream. Trish tries to use chopsticks and can’t and Dexter texts Lori under the table about how funny it is. Lori hugs Trish extra hard when they say goodbye. She is glad neither of them ordered chow fun.

She spends a lot of time drinking coffee and Googling how to make meth. It seems complicated. It is also complicated to remember to delete her browser history every night so that the government doesn’t see her looking up how to make meth and come take all her kitchen equipment which she is not actually using.

Her brother the cop starts calling the boy who came in to the station about his parents to make sure he is okay. Lori asks if he needs someone to take the boy to the prison to see his parents. Dexter looks at her funny: I guess. She drives the kid to see his mother and father and sits in the back of the visiting room and eats food from the vending machine.

She brings more men home and makes them eat the leftovers she has in the fridge and sleeps with them. One of them (average height, slight beard, left-handed) tells her she’s had lipstick on her teeth the whole night, and she tells him not to mess with her because she knows people in prison, because she knows criminals who are also taxi drivers.

When she and her brother were small, they shared a room in the first house their father built. Lori used to tug on Dexter’s ears hard to wake him up for school in the mornings. Stop it Lori, stop it, stop it. She wouldn’t stop. Why did she do this?

During college, she and Dexter moved into the same apartment to save money. They didn’t share a room and Lori did not need to wake her brother up in the morning. She drank coffee on their tiny balcony and skipped class to work at the golf course, where she was an “entertainment caddy” and blew on old men’s golf balls for good luck. She wore a very short skirt and carried bags and made $14 an hour. Dexter picked her up from work most afternoons in their shared car and shook his head at her over and over again.

Another Friday at her parent’s house. Another cow story from Trish. Rude comment from her father; hours of pretending not to check her phone for messages. Dexter shakes his head, pushes around some carrots. Lori does not eat the carrots but eats another piece of cake. Lori can’t fit into the tiny skirt from college. Another          another         an         other

Trish comes over one afternoon and they look at an old atlas Lori found in the trunk of her car. She doesn’t show Trish the old napkins, photo album, and sweater of Sean’s she also keeps in the trunk. She and Trish trace routes away from their city to places they won’t go. It seems like a good idea. The atlas is from Walmart and has a directory of all the Walmarts off major highways in the United States. That’s so useful, Trish says, staring for a long time at the list. Wow, that’s so useful. Trish asks about the post-it notes. How’s it going, she asks. Feel happier? Lori wants to lie to her, feels the lie come out of her mouth, but it sounds more like I took them all down, I don’t believe in that stuff really. Trish has learned by now not to look hurt.

She now has recurring dreams not of Chinese food, but of Sean taking a taxi over to her apartment to declare his love and getting stabbed by the taxi driver. Dexter always appears at the scene in uniform before Lori can wake herself up. In the shower, washing the dream out of her hair, she can hear her brother saying I told you so, I told you so.

Sean does come to her apartment. He does say he still loves her and he and Lori do eat Chinese food together and when he touches her with his left hand, she does not collapse. Sean does not complain about the creamer being curdled when he stirs it in his cup in the morning.        This does not happen.

Lori ends up at Sean’s apartment. She stands outside his building. In her hand is a post-it note that says No, be happier. Lori isn’t sure how it got there or why she brought it. She left work early for this, whatever this is. A man with a dog walks by. Lori smiles at him and the dog in case Sean can feel her outside his building not smiling at dogs. She took a taxi to get here. Lori presses the bell next to Sean’s name.