I carry my garbage bags of possessions up to the fourth floor and deposit them in my living room before I wander around. It’s beautiful. It’s mine. I want Judah to be here. I want my mother to be proud. I wipe both of those thoughts away quickly and pack my few possessions into the closet. A job, I think. A job, and Doyle, and life.
I buy things: a chair, plates, knives and forks, a blowup mattress, and a blanket with a large, black crow on it. A coffee maker. During the day, I walk the streets, looking in store windows for HELP WANTED signs, and speaking to bums who assume I’m one of them. I take that as a bad sign and buy some new clothes, the type of things that may get me hired. I practice facial expressions in the small mirror in my bathroom. I smile, laugh politely, and keep my voice even and demure. I try to be the type of person someone would want to hire.
And, then, on an unusually sunny day, I am eating a small lunch of salad and soup at an all night diner in Capitol Hill, when the manager jokingly asks if I am looking for a job.
The diner is called Myrrh, and serves everything from waffles to crab legs. They let me work the graveyard shift because I am one of the few who is willing to do it. I start my shift at nine when the dinner crowd is thinning, and the servers who have worked all day are moody and short tempered, eager to go home for the night. I help them wrap their silverware in napkins, and sweep their sections, just as eager to see them gone. There is another girl who works the late shift. A pretty Asian girl named Kady Flowers. She keeps to herself, and so do I. We work together seamlessly, communicating with painfully short sentences: Refills for table five. Ran your food for twenty-three. Taking bathroom break. It works well for both of us. I sometimes wonder what Kady is hiding. Did she kill someone, too, or did someone kill her?
My shift ends at five, right as the sun is coming up. There is something both deeply demeaning and deeply satisfying about waiting tables. The jostling in the dining room, the blank-eyed stares that make you feel like an intruder when you’re just refilling a water glass, the yelled-out orders, minus the thank you. You are just a face, a nametag. It gives me the anonymity that I need, and an emptiness that I perhaps deserve. Mornings, when my shift ends, I walk to my tiny apartment and make myself tea with bags I steal from Myrrh. I sit at the window and think about Judah, and Nevaeh, and Little Mo. I think about my mother too—the way she used to be when she loved me. I am bone deep lonely.
When I have lived my new life for six months, I fill out the application and have my transcripts sent to University of Washington. I start with two classes a semester: Psychology 101, Comparative Animal Behavior, and then Behavior Disorders, and Human Development. I ask plenty of questions in class, my hand shooting up twice as much as any of the other students. My professors favor me, as they mistake my self-exploration as a hunger for the business. They think I’ll go far. They suggest master’s programs, they offer to write letters of recommendation, and invite me to sit in on their other, more advanced classes. I play along, because who knows?
I take long walks, and eventually long runs. Before, when I lived in the Bone, I lost weight. Now, I build muscle. It juts out of my body in hard, ugly cords. When I look in the mirror, I can almost see what I’m made of—the tightly pulled muscle, the bone, the marrow that Judah so often spoke about. There are days when I miss the Bone, and that is when I think about my marrow the most—the who I am, the what I am. You can leave, but it never leaves you.
I write letters to Judah, but he seldom writes back, and when he does, it’s just a page of scrawled words I have to work hard to decipher. He’s busy with class … life. I get it. So am I, right?
I sleep little—four hours a day, or night, depending on my work schedule. My eyes resemble darkly bruised moons. I often catch Kady looking at me strangely, like she’s wondering the same thing I wonder about her. One night she slips a tube of something into my hand and then walks away. When I go into the bathroom to examine it, I find that she has given me under eye concealer. Something to wipe away the look of exhaustion. I use it, and it makes a difference. I feel less dead. My customers must think so too, because I get better tips. After a few more weeks, Kady slips a tube of lipstick into my apron pocket. I put it on in the bathroom. It makes me look … alive. When the lipstick and the eye concealer run out, I ask Kady where to buy more. It’s the longest conversation we’ve ever had.
“Where can I buy the makeup you brought me? I couldn’t find it at the pharmacy.”
“I’ll bring you more … my mother sells it.”
Kady Flowers becomes my makeup dealer; concealer and lipstick first, then blush and mascara. She will not let me pay for anything; instead, she lets me roll her share of the silverware. When she suggests one night that I let her cut my hair, I shake my head. “I’ve never cut it,” I say. Her look is one of such grave disappointment that I immediately agree to have her come to my flat the next day. She arrives on what happens to be my twenty-first birthday with a little black backpack in her hand that makes her look like an old fashioned doctor. She takes a cursory look around my four hundred square feet, before setting me in front of the window in my only chair, and pulling out a sequined pouch that holds her tools.
“I go to the beauty school in the city,” she says quietly. “Just in case you’re wondering if I know what I’m doing.” I hadn’t wondered, of course. If someone wants to cut my hair, who am I to stand in their way?
“Is that why you work nights?” I ask.
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