I shrug and shake my head. “I don’t know.” I check my watch; it’s about quarter to midnight. Keep asking questions until the important question sounds natural. “Maybe if you tell me your name, it’ll jog my memory?”
“Yeah, I know you,” she says. The smile half-fades into something sad, and I believe her. She turns away and folds her fingers around her drink. “My name’s Miriam.”
“Miriam.” I twirl a finger in the air in front of me. “I’m Rick. Maybe I do remember you. Were we lovers?”
“We’re all lovers,” Miriam replies. Smooth. I imagine a trail of cigarette smoke pouring from her lips as she says it. “When did you start calling yourself Rick?”
“Not fair,” I say, leaning forward. We’re both coming at this guarded; we both figure something else is going on other than our words, but words are the only way to pry. “Clearly you know me well, but my memory’s still hazy. You from around here, Miriam?”
Miriam nods and takes a slow sip; the silence floats in front of me. If I had the stomach for it, I’d order seltzer water and do these jobs with a straight head. Oh well. I never had the stomach for many things. Grandad took me fishing once, and I threw up twice off the side of the boat before he could explain how to cast a line. I cried when dad hit the dog pulling into the driveway, and I was nearly an adult then; I cried more than my baby sister when that happened.
“Born and raised four miles south of this dump,” she says at last. “I try not to come back too often.”