Frankly, I’m surprised she even bothered with me after realizing I was very much alive.
Not so much living, but alive.
Nikki snorted the last of her blow through a rolled up post-it-note off a yellowed sink that was days away from falling free from the wall. The floor was littered with toilet paper, and all three toilets were on the verge of overflowing with brown sludge. The overwhelming scent of bleach singed my nose hairs like someone doused the room with chemicals to lessen the smell but hadn’t bothered with any actual cleaning.
Nikki tilted her chin up toward the moldy ceiling tiles and pinched her nostrils together. A single florescent light flickered and buzzed above us, casting a greenish hue over the gas station bathroom.
“Fuck, that’s good shit,” she said, tossing the empty baggie onto the floor. Using the wand from an almost empty tube of lip-gloss, she fished out whatever was left and applied it to her thin cracked lips. She then smudged the thick liner under her eyes with her pinky until she nodded in satisfaction into the mirror at her racoon-esque smoky look.
I stretched my sleeve of my sweater down over the heel of my hand and wiped the filth off the mirror in front of me, exposing two things: a spider web crack in the corner and the reflection of a girl I didn’t recognize.
Light blonde hair. Sunken cheeks. Bloodshot blue eyes. Dimple chin.
I knew the girl was me, but who the fuck was I?
Two months ago, a garbage man discovered me in an alley where I had been literally thrown out with the trash, found lying in my own blood amongst a heap of garbage bags beside a dumpster. When I woke in the hospital, with the biggest fucking headache in the history of headaches, the police and doctors dismissed me as a runaway. Or a hooker. Or some hybrid combo of the two. The policeman asking me questions at my bedside didn’t bother to hide his disgust when he informed me that what probably happened was a simple case of a John getting rough with me. I’d opened my mouth to argue but stopped.
He could’ve been right.
Nothing else made any sort of sense.
No wallet. No ID. No money. No possessions of any kind.
No fucking memory.
When someone goes missing on the news, teams of people gather together and form a search party. Police reports are filed and and sometimes candlelight vigils are held in hopes the missing would soon return home. What they don’t ever show you is what happens when no one looks. When the loved ones either don’t know, don’t exist…or just don’t care.
The police searched the missing persons reports throughout the state and then the country with no luck. My fingerprints didn’t match any on record, and neither did my picture.
I learned then that being labeled a missing person didn’t necessarily mean I was missed. At least not enough to require any of the theatrics. No newspaper articles. No channel-six news. No plea from family members for my safe return.
Maybe, it was my fault no one had bothered to look for me. Maybe, I was an asshole and people celebrated the day I went away.
Or ran away.
Or was shipped down river in a fucking Moses basket.
I don’t fucking know. Anything was possible.
I don’t know where I came from.
I don’t know how old I am.
I don’t know my real name.
All I had in the world was reflected back at me in the bathroom mirror of that gas station, and I had no fucking clue who she was.
Without knowing if I was a minor or not, I was sent to live at Camp Touchey Feeley, where I only lasted a couple of weeks among the serial masturbators and juvenile delinquents. On the night I woke up to find one of the older boys standing at the foot of my bed with his fly unzipped, his dick in his hand, I escaped through a bathroom window. The only thing I left with was the donated clothes on my back, and a nickname.
They called me Doe.
As in Jane Doe.
The only difference between me and a real Jane Doe was a toe-tag because what I was doing sure as shit wasn’t living. Stealing to eat. Sleeping wherever I could find cover from the elements. Begging on the side of freeway off-ramps. Scrounging through restaurant dumpsters.
Nikki ran her chewed-off fingernails through her greasy red hair. “You ready?” she asked. Sniffling, she hopped on the balls of her feet like she was an athlete amping up for the big game.
Though it was the furthest thing from the truth, I nodded. I wasn’t ready, never would be, but I’d run out of options. It wasn’t safe on the streets, each night in the open was a literal gamble with my life. And not to mention that if I lost any more weight, I wouldn’t have the strength to fight off any threats. Either way I needed protection from both the elements and the people who lurked around at night before I ended up a real Jane Doe.