A man on the street gave her a sentence. He spoke into a headset that she barely noticed, and, on second thought, that she might’ve imagined, because it wouldn’t make sense that someone who took the trouble to wear a tie would be careless enough to speak to himself in public. Really, then, the sentence was less a gift than a coincidence.

She went home to share her found phrase, but each person she told dismissed it as unremarkable. So she began to think it wasn’t a sentence the man had given her, but a way of saying it.

She stood at the mirror and practiced, molding her mouth with her fingers, her cheeks with her palms, pinching her eyes until she was looking at the man’s expression and could recite him perfectly. With new ambition she took to the streets and spoke as if speaking into a headset. Over and over she conveyed the man’s way of speaking and looked around waiting for someone to notice, to brighten, as she had. But pedestrians avoided her, pinned her with disapproving glances. So she began to think it wasn’t a way of saying the sentence the man had given her, but a way of remembering it.

She thought about the phrase, remembering it when she woke and before she went to sleep. The words transposed themselves, then the letters, until she never thought the same sentence twice and wasn’t sure what the original had been or sounded like. Then she thought about it less, which bothered her. Then it bothered her less. So she began to think it wasn’t a sentence, or a way of saying it, or a way of remembering it, the man had given her. Then she didn’t think about it. Then it wasn’t anything at all.

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