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She is a professor of gender and women’s studies, but outside academia it’s often easier not to get into it.He adds, “I’m not driving Sunday, but, you need anything while you’re here, just call me.” Then he kneels, takes the ballpoint pen from behind his ear, and, using her black, wheeled suitcase that’s upright on the ground between them as a desk, writes “” in capital letters and a ten-digit number underneath.Trying to match his warmth, she says, “I might have dropped my driver’s license in your van. My name is Eleanor Davies.”“I’m driving now, but I’ll look after this drop-off, no problem.”Impulsively, Nell says, “If you find it, I’ll pay you.” Should she specify an amount? She calls him again before leaving her room, but the call goes to voice mail.The dinner, attended by nine people including Nell, is more fun than she expected—they spend a good chunk of it discussing a gender-studies department in California that’s imploding, plus they drink six bottles of wine—and the group decides to walk back to the hotel.
Can you board a plane in the United States, in 2015, without an I. If you’re a white woman, no doubt your chances are higher than anyone else’s.Nell is moving the things she won’t need at dinner out of her purse and setting them on top of the bureau—a water bottle, a manila folder containing the notes for a paper she’s in the revise-and-resubmit stage with—when she notices that her driver’s license isn’t in the front slot of her wallet, behind the clear plastic window.Did she not put it back after going through security in the Madison airport?A tough businessman like that could go kick some butts in Washington.”There was a time, up to and including the recent past, when Nell would have said something calm but repudiating in response, something professorial, or at least intended as such. Though she lives in Wisconsin, not so many states away, she has never been to Kansas City, or even to Missouri.“I’m not a Republican,” the driver says. You wouldn’t catch me voting for Shrillary.” He shudders, or mock-shudders. If it weren’t for his political commentary, she would give him one—her general stance is that if she can pay three hundred dollars for a pair of shoes, or .99 a pound for Thai broccoli salad from the co-op, she can overtip hourly wage workers—but now she hesitates. She joins the driver behind the van, just as a town car goes by.“If I was Bill, I’d cheat on her, too.”The driver appears to be in his early twenties, fifteen or so years younger than Nell, with narrow shoulders on a tall frame over which he wears a shiny orange polo shirt; the van is also orange, and an orange ballpoint pen is set behind his right ear. When she passes him a twenty, she observes him registering the denomination and possibly developing some parting fondness for her.