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by Lynne Tillman

Hope lives in unexpected places. Hope is a home, but hope is
transient. Hope is to romance what God is to religion.
I don't believe in God.

In the morning I wake up and push away dread, which hovers at
the foot of my bed. Then I find myself face to face with hope.
(Without hopelessness there is no hope.)

Does hope have a face? It must have a human side-it's our invention.
Hope's face might be that of a fifty-five year old woman.
She walks her dog on Avenue A.
She is always alone.

I have been fascinated by her for years. She is a mysterious
and compelling presence. I wrote her into a story and felt a
guilty secret growing inside me like a sturdy weed, the kind that
grows no matter how many times it's pulled. I laughed at myself;
my guilt is so often irrelevant.

One morning, after years of passing each other on the street,
the woman nodded to me. A month later, she said hello to me. Then,
a month after that, we had a conversation. She started it.

-You've been away.
-You look happy.
-Thank you. I am. But where's your dog?
-She's dead. She's been poisoned.
-Oh no.
-Yes. I gave her to a woman to care for but she poisoned her.
I know she did. But you look good. At least that is
something. My dog died, and there is always something going
on, some trouble, with me.

She looked at me and said, "But you already know that about
me, don't you?" We smiled at each other. We recognized each
other. She was just what I expected, what I had hoped for, and even
more, I was what she expected.

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