“All I have is time,” I mumble. “I’ll be back as soon as I get my first paycheck.”
He has me set up an appointment through his secretary and then sends me on my way, back out into the Texas heat.
I’ve been living here all of three weeks and so far it’s everything I thought it would be: hot, humid, and lonely.
I grew up in Portland, Oregon, and assumed I would spend the rest of my life there. I visited Texas once when I was fifteen and although that trip wasn’t a pleasant one, I wouldn’t take back a single second of it. Unlike now, when I’d do anything to get back to Portland.
I pull my sunglasses down over my eyes and begin heading in the direction of my apartment. Living in downtown Dallas is nothing like living in downtown Portland. At least in Portland, I had access to almost everything the city had to offer, all within a decent walk. Dallas is spread out and expansive, and did I mention the heat? It’s so hot. And I had to sell my car in order to afford the move, so I have the choice between public transportation and my feet, considering I’m now penny-pinching in order to be able to afford the lawyer I just met with.
I can’t believe it’s come to this. I haven’t even built up a clientele at the salon I’m working at, so I’m definitely going to have to look for a second job. I just have no idea when I’ll find time to fit it in, thanks to Lydia’s erratic scheduling.
Speaking of Lydia.
I dial her number and hit send and wait for her to pick up on the other end. After it goes to voice mail, I debate whether to leave a message or just call back later tonight. I’m sure she just deletes her messages, anyway, so I end the call and drop the phone into my purse. I can feel the flush rising up my neck and cheeks and the familiar sting in my eyes. It’s the thirteenth time I’ve walked home in my new state, in a city inhabited by nothing but strangers, but I’m determined to make it the first time I’m not crying when I reach my front door. My neighbors probably think I’m psychotic.
It’s just such a long walk from work to home, and long walks make me contemplate my life, and my life makes me cry.
I pause and look into the glass window of one of the buildings to check for smeared mascara. I take in my reflection and don’t like what I see.
A girl who hates the choices she’s made in her life.
A girl who hates her career.
A girl who misses Portland.
A girl who desperately needs a second job, and now a girl who is reading the HELP WANTED sign she just noticed in the window.
Knock to apply.
I take a step back and assess the building I’m standing in front of; I’ve passed by it every day on my commute and I’ve never noticed it. Probably because I spend my mornings on the phone and my afternoon walks with too many tears in my eyes to notice my surroundings.
That’s all the sign says. The name leads me to believe it might be a church, but that thought is quickly dismissed when I take a closer look at the glass windows lining the front of the building. They are covered with small scraps of paper in various shapes and sizes, concealing views into the building, removing any hope of taking a peek inside. The scraps of paper are all marked with words and phrases, written in different handwriting. I take a step closer and read a few of them.
Every day I’m grateful that my husband and his brother look exactly alike. It means there’s less of a chance that my husband will find out that our son isn’t his.
I clutch my hand to my heart. What the hell is this? I read another.
I haven’t spoken to my children in four months. They’ll call on holidays and my birthday, but never in between. I don’t blame them. I was a horrible father.
I read another.
I lied on my résumé. I don’t have a degree. In the five years I’ve been working for my employer, no one has ever asked to see it.
My mouth is agape and my eyes are wide as I stand and read all the confessions my eyes can reach. I still have no idea what this building is or what I even think about all these things being plastered up for the world to see, but reading them somehow gives me a sense of normalcy. If these are all true, then maybe my life isn’t quite as bad as I think it is.
After no less than fifteen minutes, I’ve made it to the second window, having read most of the confessions to the right of the door, when it begins to swing open. I take a step back to avoid being hit, while I simultaneously fight the intense urge to step around the door and get a peek inside the building.
A hand reaches out and yanks down the HELP WANTED sign. I can hear a marker sliding across the vinyl sign as I remain poised behind the door. Wanting to get a better look at whoever or whatever this place is, I begin to step around the door just as the hand slaps the HELP WANTED sign back onto the window.
Knock to apply.
BEAT ON THE DAMN DOOR!!
I laugh when I read the alterations made to the sign. Maybe this is fate. I desperately need a second job and whoever this is desperately needs help.
The door then opens further, and I’m suddenly under the scrutiny of eyes that I guarantee are more shades of green than I could find on his paint-splattered shirt. His hair is black and thick and he uses both hands to push it off his forehead, revealing even more of his face. His eyes are wide and full of anxiety at first, but after taking me in, he lets out a sigh. It’s almost as if he’s acknowledging that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and he’s relieved I’m finally here.
He stares at me with a concentrated expression for several seconds. I shift on my feet and glance away. Not because I’m uncomfortable, but because the way he stares at me is oddly comforting. It’s probably the first time I’ve felt welcome since I’ve been back in Texas.
“Are you here to save me?” he asks, pulling my attention back to his eyes. He’s smiling, holding the door open with his elbow. He assesses me from head to toe and I can’t help but wonder what he’s thinking.
I glance at the HELP WANTED sign and run through a million scenarios of what could happen if I answer his question with a yes and follow him inside this building.
The worst scenario I can come up with is one that would end with my murder. Sadly, that’s not enough of a deterrent, considering the month I’ve had.
“Are you the one hiring?” I ask him.
“If you’re the one applying.”