My first bite is savory and sweet, like these have been honeyed by the queen bee and I can swear (if I were under oath) that I am eating buttermilk pancakes and not the buckwheat ones the chipper server with messy orange- curled tendrils just set in front of me.

I use a dollop of maple syrup because I’m still on the no flour, no sugar diet, also nicknamed “Insanity,” and I just don’t feel like I‘m cheating when I use a dollop. My eyes water at the very first bite.

“That good, huh?” Jay, the surprisingly young head publisher of a major publishing house in New York says to me as he bites incredulously into a large stack of chocolate-chip pancakes and smirks. He’s got some powdered sugar on his chin. I let it sit there for a minute, knowing absolutely for certain I’m doing it on purpose.

He likes my writing. This is good. This is very good, considering. But….

“I know a lot of publishers who fool around, oh yeah. It’s all over the place. I mean — come on — everyone in New York is single.”

He bites again. I sip my black coffee. Powdered sugar hasn’t moved.

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t fool around — I think you should! Just not with someone in the same field as you,” he winks over at me. The gold band he wears on his left ring finger seems a dull gray, the radiance it had when we started the business meeting vanishing as though a magician made it so.

I want to say something quippy, but all that comes out is “I see.” I cross my right leg over my left again and notice my foot is bouncing back and forth like I’m panicked. I thought the story about the eager new writers coming into his office and propositioning him was the last of it.

“I’ve fooled around a lot. But I’m smart about it. That’s one thing I like about your writing: You’re smart.” He winks again and takes a massive-attack bite, getting all four pancakes in with no problem, chocolate chips and all.

The check is dropped and I ask the question I’ve been waiting for the right moment to ask the whole meeting: “Are you interested in signing me?”

Jay wipes his chin, somehow perfectly in one swipe removing the powdered sugar and then asking me if I’ve ever written erotica.

I wonder about men who are in a position of power as I drive home. Does this publisher think I’m an idiot? I remember the thrill I had when I got the call from New York. I stuttered when I spoke to the receptionist. I was embarrassed. And then we sit, over pancakes and coffee, and talk about not writing, but affairs?

What’s wrong with this picture?

I do a breathing exercise my new friend Louise has taught me to help with relaxing. I pull over. I close my eyes. I imagine a few people I love standing there in a large, open field waving at me, smiling. And it works. I’m OK, perhaps a little disappointed, but OK. One good thing came out of it: I now know where to get the best buckwheat pancakes in Los Angeles.

Alice can be reached at

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