Now I am determined. I have to leave. I was stupid to think that I could stay. A town the size of Bone Harbor can’t hold what’s inside of me. I turn on the radio to drown out my thoughts and drive, drive, drive the speed limit all the way to Seattle.
I DRIVE TO A MOTEL on the outskirts of Seattle and check in. The room is dingy, but it’s clean. At forty dollars a night, I am grateful for that at least. I lie quietly under the humorless fluorescent light on the ceiling and listen to a motorbike on the street. It grunts and farts probably as loudly as the middle-aged crisis who is driving it.
My entire life is a crisis, and I am glad that no one has paid enough attention to it to notice that something is off about me. The bike revs loudly one last time and then guns off down the street. Tomorrow I will find a paper, or perhaps use the computers at the library, to find a place to live. Then I will have to find a job, preferably not one at a thrift shop. I switch off the light and roll onto my side so that I can see the flashing neon sign of the strip club next door. IRLS!
I’ll be different. I’ll never go back to the Bone or the eating house. I have come this far, and I will go farther—running from who that place made me be. But before my eyes close and my mind drifts into sleep, I already know I’m lying to myself. The eating house will never stop calling to me, and I will never cease to answer.
The city burns my eyes, glinting demon, like under the rare winter sun. It isn’t like the pictures I’ve seen of New York City. It is industrial, hard metal hanging over clear, crisp water. Shipyards and skyscrapers outlined by the blunt, graphite sky. My small town eyes are accustomed to space and squat, colorless buildings. People who look soft to the touch and clothe their bodies in faded cottons and fleece. Here, the women wear bright, gem-colored coats and glossy rain boots. Their bodies look hard and strong. I don’t know how to drive amongst cars that seamlessly weave and wedge themselves into small spaces of road. People honk at me, their horns loud accusations that I don’t know what I am doing.
By the time I find the parking garage I am looking for, my shirt is damp with sweat and my hands are numb. I get lost in the garage, and during the twenty minutes it takes to make my way down to the street, I already doubt my ability to survive here. The apartment I am coming to see is on Sixth Avenue in a high rise. The website has pictures of a tiny kitchen and bathroom with black and white checkered tile, and a closet-sized bedroom. But it is affordable. I stand on the street, backed up against the window of a paperie, clutching my backpack to my chest. The people here don’t acknowledge the rain. They move through it like it’s a part of them—an extra leg or arm they’re used to working around. I am made breathless by the efficiency in their step, the impassivity on their faces. I can’t make myself move, because I can’t move like them.
It’s a crow that puts me back into my skin. It lands on the sidewalk a few feet away from where I am cowering, and caws at me, tilting its head from side to side. I blink at the street, then back at the crow. I am the essence of evil. Most of these people who are passing me have not taken someone’s life. They have not planned a murder, or poured gasoline over a woman’s body and lit a match. They may have thought it, thought murder, but by acting on my impulses, I have separated myself from the rest of the world. Released a beast from its cage. And here I am, so paralyzed by fear that I can barely move.
It is the crow’s caw that reminds me of who I am, and it sets my feet moving. Electric blue Docs and the splash of puddles. I make my way toward Sixth Avenue, imitating the facial expressions of the people around me. People I can never be because of what I’ve already done. But, I realize, I can watch them and pretend. I can buy a raincoat and learn my way around these streets. Piece of cake. I just have to get this apartment.
The apartment isn’t as nice as it looked on the internet. I feel like a woman who’s arrived to a date with a man she met online, fooled by his outdated picture. I take it anyway, because the owner takes me. The longer I wait to find a place to live, the longer I’ll be sleeping in my car. We do everything right there, on the peeling Formica countertop of the outdated kitchen. It’s not worse than the eating house, I tell myself, as I sign the lease and hand over a year’s worth of rent. The year’s rent is the reason I get the place. No questions asked. I don’t have references or credit. I feel lucky he’s giving me a chance.
The owner is a balding, thirty-something man, named Doyle, with a gut that nudges over the top of his pants. He smells of Old Spice. I walk the apartment one last time before we leave, taking in the familiar smell of cigarette smoke and the lingering stench of grease that clings to the wallpaper. The windows face other windows, but, from the living room, I can see a patch of sky, and that is enough. We make arrangements to meet at a coffee shop later, where he will bring me the keys and the sticker I’ll need to use the building’s parking garage. As I walk out of the building, I feel accomplished. I want to tell Judah what I’ve done, so I go to a store and buy a phone. They want my address. I give them the address of the eating house, and plan to change it later. I fill out the paperwork, pay them, and when I walk out and head down a deeply sloping street to the coffee shop, I have one of those fancy things that can do anything and everything.
Finding a table near a window, I watch the people and the traffic, a growing sense of excitement bubbling in my chest. I wait for four hours in the coffee shop before I get up and ask the man making coffees behind the bar about Doyle. He looks at me with his eyebrow cocked, his pierced lip pulled up in impatience.
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