This caught the young mother up short. She had never in her wildest dreams imagined that she would be sitting in a car in the middle of the night with a rich white doctor calling her beautiful. White people were fine by her, but she never responded to any flirtation that she got from white men. She wasnt interested in them. She liked men like Elton, with his jet-black skin and deep laugh.
But Minas Nolan wasnt flirting. He really thought that she was beautiful, and he was honestly happy to be sitting there next to her.
I should be going," she said. Its very late."
Thank you for keeping me company, Miss Beerman," Minas said.
They shook hands. Branwyn thought that she had had kisses less passionate than the way that surgeon held her fingers.
THE NEXT EVENING, Minas was waiting outside the ICU at eleven.
I dont expect you to have dinner with me or to do anything except to accept a ride home, Miss Beerman," he said quickly, as if to keep her from protesting.
You dont have to do that, Doctor," she said.
She had been thinking about Minas throughout the daywhenever she wasnt thinking about her son. Before their night at the Rib Joint, Branwyn would spend her days thinking about what it would be like if Elton came back and Tommy got better and they all moved to a house out toward the desert where they could have a backyard with a garden and a swing.
But that day, she hadnt thought of Elton at allnot once.
This wasnt a pleasant realization. If just one impossible night with a man who couldnt ever really be a friend made her forget the father of her child, then what would two nights bring? She might forget about Tommy next.
Dr. Nolan could see the rejection building in Branwyns face, and before it could come out, he said, Last night was the first time I got to sleep before sunrise. I had a good time just driving you home. It was something I could do. You know what I mean?"
She did know. It was just as if he knew how she understood things. His few words spoke a whole volume to her understanding of the world and loneliness. She couldnt refuse him the release of that drive. If she went home on the bus now, she would never get to sleep because shed be up thinking of that poor man lying awake, thinking about his dead wife.
I cant go to dinner though," she said as if in the middle of a much larger conversation.
Dr. Nolan drove Branwyn straight home. They talked about flowers that night. She explained to him how she thought about arranging different kinds of blossoms and leaves. He listened very closely and asked astute questions.
The next night he told her about the first time he cut into a living human body.
I was so scared that I threw up afterward," he admitted. I decided that I wasnt meant to be a surgeon."
Branwyn grinned at that.
What are you laughing about?" the doctor asked.
Because I was afraid?"
Because you seem like youre not afraid of anything," she said.
Im scared plenty."
Maybe you think so," Branwyn replied. But people really afraid hardly ever know it."
What does that mean?"
Well . . . the way I see it, a man whos afraid stays away from the things he fears. A man afraid of cutting into another to save his life would never put himself in the position to do that. Hed become an artist or anything else and then talk about surgery like he was some kinda expert. Fear makes men bluster. They do that so you cant tell how they feel, and after a while, neither can they."
Copyright © 2006 by Walter Mosley
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