In Harriet’s spare room, I plugged my cell phone in and checked my e-mail. Notes of commiseration from former co-workers. A bulletin from the building management about a meeting tomorrow morning. Three pieces of spam selling me web-hosting, umbrella hats, and an online degree in teaching.
Dear Ms. Amme:
We hope that you will meet with the Holiday Consortium tomorrow at 11 am to discuss a job offer we wish to tender. A driver will be sent for you at your current location at 10:30 am sharp.
How had they gotten my address? I called up their webpage but found it bland and uninformative, other than the fact that they did seem to be a legitimate business, although precisely what it was that they did that I wasn’t sure.
I left the phone to charge and went into the bathroom. I could hear Harriet in her bedroom, a muted whisper of The Daily Show, which she liked as background to her reading. On the counter, hotel toiletries filled a large porcelain bowl painted with dragonflies. I fished out a Barbie-sized toothbrush and lathered my teeth with wintergreen, sizing myself up in the mirror.
I won’t bore you with physical trivialities. I’ve looked better. Right now I looked the way I felt, as though I’d been beaten up by the universe.
It wasn’t a sensation I’d felt for a long time, not since the years after my father had died and my mother had been institutionalized. She’d bounced in and out of facilities but had never had space in her life for a child. Instead I’d been raised by my dad’s younger sister, Rose, along with her own two kids. A recent widow, Rose could have said no to my being dumped on her, but the thought had never crossed her mind. She’d have taken me in tonight, but she was a continental stretch away, on the East Coast to my West. And she had her own troubles — Kenny, who’d been my older brother facsimile, had been diagnosed with MS two months ago.
I rinsed and spat. I’d grabbed my nightwear, an over-sized t-shirt reading, “Fay Do It in the Road” and surrounded by inexplicable purple sparkles.
Back in the bedroom, I inventoried my wardrobe.
- One black leather jacket.
- One tailored white shirt, somewhat the worse for wear from my alley encounter.
- One pair black pants with gusseted crotch for fighting, extra-deep pockets, and several other handy extras.
- My good black bra, socks, and underwear, as well as the packages of the last two I’d grabbed at the Bartell’s we’d stopped at on the way home.
From Harriet’s discard box, I added a black stocking cap with a Red Hat Linux logo, a sequinned silver dress whose shortness showed how much taller than Harriet I was, a worn black fleece top with white snowflakes on it, a pair of orange knitted slippers that looked to be a men’s size fourteen, three more t-shirt advertising network security software, and a pretty scarf from the bottom of the box, a cobwebby black thing that I thought might look all right with the dress.
I started to try it on with the silver dress, but the thought that any chance for playing dress-up might be a long time coming just depressed me. I folded it all up and packed all but what I’d need tomorrow in the brown paper grocery sack Harriet had given me. Now all my worldly possession consisted of a box and a sack. I rinsed out my shirt, hung it up to dry in the bathroom, and went to bed.
Lying back against the pillow, I fished on the end table for my phone and looked at the mail again. Was this the reason M had wanted my email? It was a weird and enigmatic email, but maybe a good kind of weird and enigmatic. Surely M wouldn’t have given my contact information to someone unless she thought I’d be a good fit for whatever position it was that they had in mind. And since it came from her, I didn’t have to worry about it being some fringe group trying to hire a buffy.
Things were looking up. Maybe. In the minus side, two marks for job and home, and maybe a half mark for Harriet-regained-then-lost-again. On the plus side, a question mark representing the Holiday Consortium.
Harriet’s guest room was warmer than her attitude. I curled up under the down comforter, listening to the drizzle of rain on the room, feeling the sort of snug you can only can when you know it’s cold outside but you’re safe and warm.
I couldn’t help wondering how much longer I’d be able to savor that kind of situation if the job with the Holiday Consortium didn’t come through.
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