Alex Witchel’s article appeared  in The New York Times, 12/21.)

“You realize it’s backing up,” Branden Jacobs-Jenkins said casually, as I turned around, midstreet, to find myself within two inches of a moving car. “No,” I managed, suddenly terrified, forgetting about the notes I had been taking. Jacobs-Jenkins touched my elbow, and his smile reassured me to start breathing again. “Not today,” he intoned, as I slid out of harm’s way and into Blue State Coffee in New Haven, Conn.

“Not today,” I repeated, and laughed with relief. Yet for days afterward, I thought about that moment. He had seen all along that the car wouldn’t hit me. But I hadn’t. And watching me think I was in danger interested him. It was the base line of a writer’s ruthlessness. I had to admire it.

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