TOM-TOM LOOKED AT ME when he left McDonald’s as if he too were floating—so happy, so grateful; but he did not embrace me with his hamlike, lung-collapsing hands only because he held complimentary large-size packages of french fries in each.
Nothing ever blinded him, however, and he said, “Why, you doggone old man, you enjoyed that!”
I kept a hand on the gritty, dirty roof of his car—to propel myself should I want to levitate again. Everything had calmed in me: the fluttering gone, the soaring urge grounded. I was serene.
“You were pale a moment there inside,” he said, “but look at you now—hey, hey!”
He continued chuckling to himself as he maneuvered his bulk behind the wheel without ever letting go of the two handfuls of french fries. I could smell them, but my stomach did not turn over. That was a grand step forward for me: I’d yet become a first-class American.
“You look ready for a night of it,” he said. “Here, hold one of these for me. No, I’ll eat it right here. Fast. I know you don’t want me to drag it out. I know I got rotten taste.”
“I’ll hold them,” I said. “I want to get home.”
“Home?” he said.
“Celia’s and Cuco’s,” I said, like a little boy who had been corrected. I was shaken by the night’s experience: would my yesyou-can-go-home-again project, a brilliant solution in New York, work? Would it? For I had meant it less as going home again than as holing up and keeping the enemy at bay.
I added, “Home for tonight.”