My favorite part of this story is a little line in the middle, when Francesca is about to truly attach herself to the goofy yet heartbreaking Norm, her closest friend. She is away at college, and he has driven seven hours to find her, to tell her how he feels. That night, they have sex for the first time. It isn’t great. It isn’t terrible either. But Francesca sees the physical consummation of their relationship as a gift: “a gift for five years of friendship.” A lesser story would have stopped there. The idea of such a “gift” has the trappings of truth in it; it feels right that this would happen. But Francesca’s consciousness goes one step further: it was a gift, too, for “five years of always having a number to call when she was lonely or unhappy or when her father passed out drunk in the living room and she couldn’t watch TV because it would wake him up.” The story has brought us, in this moment of ambivalent and wary happiness, to another moment that scans the same. There is an understated tenderness in the idea of stepping over the passed-out father, tiptoeing around him, not wanting to disturb. She loves and is melancholy, all in one. Francesca is bound to Norm with this detail.