Page 48

“Goodbye, Judah.” My voice is clear and strong.

“I can’t say it, Margo.”

“Don’t,” I tell him. “Just remember one thing. You left me.”

And then I’m back in the house, and I’ve closed the door on Judah, and on the small chance I thought I had at love. And what an idiot I was to think I had that chance.

“It’s just us now,” I say to the eating house. “You can have me.”

A REPORTER IS SPEAKING about a baby koala born at the zoo near Seattle. I focus my whole attention on that story—the birth of a koala on the day Judah leaves the Bone. It’s only after he leaves that I look out the window at the empty street, but all I can think about is the koala. I want to see it. I want to go to the zoo, just like Judah promised me we would. As I leave the room and walk up the stairs, the news story switches to the murder of Lyndee Anthony. The clear voice of the reporter travels with me for a while, and then my thoughts drown it out. “Police are still searching for—”

When you start life, you have high hopes. Even if you’re born in the Bone, with a mother who wears a red, silk robe all day long, and sells her body to men for a nice crisp hundred dollar bill. You believe in the unbelievable. You see fairies in your empty pantry where the cans are supposed to be, and the rats that scramble across your bedroom floor are messengers from the gods, or your own personal spirit animal. And, if you’re really creative, you romanticize the rags you’re wearing. You’re Cinderella, you’re Snow White, you’re…

You’re a dead girl walking. But, for a time, you’re blind to it, and that’s a good thing. And then it’s taken—slowly … slowly … slowly. The loss of innocence is the most severe of growing pains. One day you believe you’re Cinderella, and the next all your imaginary glimmer falls away, and you see yourself as just another poor fuck, sentenced to live out your days in the Bone. Your innocence leaves so violently. It hurts to understand that no one is going to rescue you. No one can give you freedom. No one can give you justice, or vengeance, or happiness, or anything. Anything. If you’re willing, and if you’re brave, you take it. I have to get out of here.

The day after Judah leaves, I take six thousand dollars of my mother’s money, and I buy a car from an ad I find in the paper. It’s the first time I’ve ever bought a paper, and it takes me ten minutes to find the section where used cars are sold. An impulse buy, but I trust it because it’s what I need right now. It’s an open top Jeep, black and older than I am, but in pretty good shape. The owner is Mr. Fimmes, a rickety old vet with arthritis and a set of dentures that he pops in and out of place with his tongue. The Jeep belonged to his son before he died in an accident climbing Rainier. He’s not the sentimental type, he tells me. He kept it around because his wife wouldn’t let him sell it.

“She died of cancer six months ago, so I figured now’s the time…”

I tell him I’m sorry for his loss as I poke around in the glove box. I find a moldy box of cigars and a pocketknife that looks expensive. I pull out the knife and offer it to him. “You might want to keep this.” He shakes his head. “Told you. Not the sentimental type.”

“Oh,” I say lamely, thinking of all the boxes of my mother’s things in the attic. Would I be able to give those away as easily?

“I hardly drove it, and it’s in pretty good shape.” He pops his dentures in place to tell me this, then pops them back out again. It’s tough looking and impractical since it rains so goddamn much. But I don’t mind the feel of rain on my face, and it’s better than buying a beat-up, gang-banger car from Alfie’s Car Lot. Everyone knows Alfie deals everything Mo does not. The lot is just a side business. Cars traded for drugs, cars bought to hide cash. Those cars have bad juju. I hand Mr. Fimmes the cash and drive away. I go slowly, my foot hovering nervously over the brake. I watch old Mr. Fimmes in the rearview mirror, thinking at any moment he’s going to figure out I can’t drive and call the whole thing off. I’ve only driven once before, when Sandy let me drive her car around the Rag’s parking lot after hours. I’d been good at it then, but there had been no other cars around. So this is it. I’m teaching myself. I take the back streets, slamming the brakes too hard at the stop signs, and almost knocking over someone’s mailbox when I make a turn.

I’ll be the only person on Wessex Street, besides Mo, who owns a car. This makes me a target. Judah was suspicious of me, so why wouldn’t these strangers be? Either way, I don’t want anyone to know I have it. Sandy says I can leave in in her garage for a few days. I drop it off at her house and catch the bus home. It feels good. I bought a car. I’m a total grownup.

I rent the eating house to Sandy, who finally left Luis and is seeing a new guy she met in the vitamin aisle at Wal-Mart. He’s nice enough; I met them at a bar once, but soon after arriving, I felt like the awkward third wheel and said I had to go.

I go to the library and print off a lease agreement I find online. Four hundred dollars a month, and she is responsible for the utilities. She says she is going to get a roommate and charge them six hundred dollars a month to live with her. I don’t care. I tell her so. This response seems to illicit excitement from her, and she rushes off to put an ad on Craigslist. I don’t know who Craig is, but as I toss my things into garbage bags, I pray he doesn’t send a psychopath to live in my mother’s house. Then I remember that I’m much worse than a psychopath, and that shuts up my mental fretting.

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