He might have said that he wasn’t sure, or something equally evasive, but the simple act of engaging this woman, almost anyone in conversation, has an immediate effect on his anguish, which he feels slipping away. He has an almost unnatural motivation to keep the conversation alive.

“How come you’re out here on such a cool day if you want to see the beach?” he asks. The bus nears the turn to East Hampton; there are but a few minutes left before it stops.

“I just wanted to see the beach. Ever since I’m in New York I’ve heard how beautiful the beaches are. I have the day off, so I thought I’d have a look.”

“A day off from what?” he asks, as he wonders about his first assessment. The woman raises both arms and smoothes her hair, as if posing. The motion propels her chest forward. He feels the hair on the back of his neck stand up, as if he’s just entered a cold room.

“I’m a resident in psychiatry at Mt. Sinai. Wednesday is my day off,” she answers in the matter-of-fact way people describe the most mundane things, like what car they own, or the movie they saw the past weekend.

This simple disclosure catches Posner unawares. So much for initial judgments, he thinks, but he recovers quickly enough to ask about her accent.

Ach. That is German. I grew up in Austria, in Vienna. That’s after my parents left Iran just before the Shah and his family moved.”
Everything is clear now to Posner, the facial coloring and the accent all come together. And a doctor, no less. She must have sensed his surprise. She’s probably seen it many times, but before he can say a word the bus begins to slow as it approaches the East Hampton stop. The empty driveway of the Palm restaurant lies to the right. She stands and moves a step closer up