Even though she'd told him never to interrupt as she worked out the bridge challenge in the morning paper—-had, in fact, used the last-chance locution he knew from long experience to fear, that she'd "split" his "sack" and "yank" his "tongue out between" his "raisony balls" if he ever did so again "after these seven lifetimes of your whys and wherefores making me sick unto death"— -he nudged her, thrust before her eyes the Polaroid in which she wore the purple caftan, and said, "Remember this?"
She stared at the thing he held, then tilted her head, furrowed her brow, and, pinching a corner between thumb and index finger, gently tugged the photograph from him. She nodded at it and smiled, placed it carefully on the arm of the couch, folded the paper and dropped it on the floor. She glanced at him sidelong, a fond glance, one that repaid in full the risk he'd taken. "When did I ever wear a caftan?" she said. "Is this some sort of computer trick?"
She knew very well he never went near computers, that he'd never watched any of the televisions they'd owned because of some bad business before they'd met, something he refused to talk about except in the most ambiguous, portentous terms. After all was said and done, it wasn't such a loss never to have watched television with him, no matter how absurd she found his refusal. He was nothing if not stubborn in his convictions. Once done, he was done. She could rely on that, had to admire it, but admiration does yield to assumption, then taking-for-granted, then the oblivion of dailiness.
"It's the essential you, isn't it?" he said. "New Year's Eve it was. Our first. You'd gone to check on your little sister. Made sure she was asleep so we could—-you know." He propped both feet on the coffee table. "I'll never forget it."
She shook her head. "The essential me is my navel, you fool. It's my earlobes and my left pinkie. Plant your nose anywhere and that's the essential me." She sniffed and scratched her knee. "Besides, my mother never even wore one of those. Why would I?"
"You had nothing on underneath," he said. "We'd promised each other."
"It's quite a picture," she said. "Very convincing. You've got hidden talents. Always have." She bent for the paper and settled back in to read.