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Vol. 3, No. 2

The Worst Thing a Suburban Girl Could Imagine
by Melissa Bank

XVIII

There's a passageway connecting Port Authority to Times Square--the Eighth Avenue subways to the Seventh--and one morning when I looked up I saw a poem in the eaves, sequential like the Burma Shave billboards:
    Overslept,
    so tired.
    If late,
    get fired.
    Why the worry?
    Why the pain?
    Go back home.
    Do it again.
    Something changed then. I saw my life in scale: it was just my life. It was not momentous, and only now did I recognize that it had once seemed so to me; that was while my father was watching.
    I saw myself the way I'd seen the cleaning women in the building across the street. I was just one person in one window.
    Nobody was watching, except me.

 

~

At the office, Mimi told me that there was another of Dorrie's acquisitions that needed to be edited.
    I stood at her desk, looking at the bulky manuscript. "Wow," I said. "This is a long one."
    "The author's been calling me and yesterday he called Richard," she said, referring to the editorial director. "So it's sort of a rush."
    I didn't pick up the manuscript. I pinged the rubberband. "Did you look at it?" I asked, stalling.
    She turned her head--not a no, not a yes. "Jane," she said, "I can do it myself over the weekend. But it would be great if you could help out."
    It was hard turning down an opportunity to be great. When I did, I saw her delicate eyebrows go up.

 

~

At Tortilla Flats, Jamie introduced his current girlfriend, a waitress named Petal. She had a little daisy tattoo on her ankle and seemed light and sweet and sure of herself in the particular way a very young woman can.
    At our table, I asked Sophie if I was ever like that.
    "Like what?" she said.
    "Like Petal in any way," I said.
    She said, "You used to be twenty-two."
    "Jesus," I said, "Jamie must be thirty-five."
    "Twisted," she said, and got up to go the bathroom.
    I looked around me. It was Thursday, a party night, and I could feel that bar-generated electricity--the buzz and spark of sex-to-be. Everyone appeared to be having a great time, flirting and drinking and half dancing to R and B, which I loved and never heard at Archie's.
    When Sophie returned, I said, "I think being with Archie makes me feel older than I am."
    "You do live his way," she said. "It's an older person's life."

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