by Jill Talbot
You asked us to fill out a form about beauty night and left only a few lines for us to explain which is hardly enough! Your volunteers seem like they were taken from an Ellen DeGeneres (is that her name?) audience. After she sold out to Maybelline and I lost my virginity to a guy named Ian. I wanted to crawl under a rock but there were no rocks only face masks—which—let me tell you! are quite frightening. Your girls—yes, they all seemed too young or empty headedto be called women no matter how many times you correct your staff for not being PC—now I’ve lost what I was trying to say. The glorification of stripping I could’ve done without. The volunteers seemed like hungry wolves when they were told the turn-out might be low. As you know, it was a curfew night and where else were we supposed to go? These girls don’t have a clue what it’s like out there. So they come to do what? Our nails? Brag to their yuppie friends how they were on the downtown eastside? Please.
Across the street the Astoria hotel lights flicker. They do not transmit intelligence. They do not capture what cannot be held. They do not walk or run through the glass door. The cats do. They have no selves. Or selves to lose. They are free to inhabit idiocy like a sweater, take it back or don’t depending on the weather. The police are back. The bugs are back. I’m thinking of how to take back the day from the night—if ever the two shall meet. If ever oh ever—this is not that kind of resolution. Only the blinking and the sidewalk where the cigarette butts hide. The can is always kicked over. One of those places. They scamper like mice. Cold beer, it says cold. One minute until Kermit croaks. A kick at the future. I always tell the truth sometimes the truth changes. Candice holds up her mask.
Beautiful, someone says.
I went through his things to make sure he wasn’t a mass murderer. He told me that all his coworkers were cunts. The cashiers were always whores. He patted me on the head. The apartment wasn’t big enough for any of this.
From outside the apartment window looked like the top of an attic, as if there was always a ghost looking out. One of those apartment buildings that was really an old house. I stuttered around for hours looking for something. As if the cutlery or appliances might have told me what I already knew. He took me to play Frisbee golf and I was in charge of keeping his score. Somehow all I remember of when we met was that it had been raining. He could have been anyone. I was no one. At least we knew it wouldn’t end well. When the shock is taken out of tragedy all that’s left is rain. We knew this and still came out cold.
He told me not to stay in the apartment while he was at work for I may have a nap and it was not fair that I might nap while he was working and wishing he could nap.
However, he also wouldn’t give me a key so I could not come and go. And I convinced him to let me stay inside. I watched him leave from the window. Most relationships take longer to get up to this level of dysfunction. I guess we had practice. I would have had a nap just to show him but I couldn’t sleep.
Eventually I waited for him to be gone, called the crisis line and awaited a homeless outreach team, who showed up in a grey van and we carried down the stairs my various garbage bags. I looked around, I was sure he was watching. He was at work, I knew this. And I looked around just in case. I left the apartment unlocked, never did get a key. I was free and I was not.
Homelessness taught me a lot. What I still can’t figure out is if it’s better to be locked in or out. In my visions I’m looking out the window and watching myself walk out of the apartment complex, down the path, to the street. I’m watching the one with the keys. I’m watching her pause at the sidewalk.
Sara and Tara, yes those really are their names—sit at the table with their apples and naloxone kits.
So what do you do if they’re not responsive? the teacher Jenna asks.
Shake them and ask if they’re okay.
Yes, but you can’t hurt someone by giving them naloxone if they don’t need it. If they do need it and don’t get it, they could die.
Sara gasps. Tara nods knowingly. As if death is an acquaintance everyone wants as a reference but not a friend.
So this goes in a thigh or some other place with muscle. Let’s practice on our apples.
The training’s over. Hardly worth the training manual. I suppose everything needs training manuals these days, I’m pretty sure there’s toilet paper made of terms and conditions.
Sara and Tara are social worker students. Me, I’m the fly on the apple. Maybe snow white wouldn’t have fallen ill had her apple been given naloxone and Cinderella’s pumpkin.
We didn’t talk about signs of overdose, Jenna says. How can you tell?
Excellent. Now you can have your own kits.
They both look pleased. As if they’re receiving trophies. The front door bangs.
This is a violation! Where are my nail polishes? Where are my cups? Someone was in my room! Such a violation, you can’t do that when I’m not here! That’s not legal! I can’t take this shit!
She continues yelling and repeating herself.
Sometimes I want to die, Jenna says.
Sara and Tara look at the floor.
I fly into the fluorescent light radiating down into their poison apples, empty cups and ape mouths.
Each as a mask for midnight when slippers weren’t enough. Two step from falling through the cracks. Nobody asks what you’re supposed to be when you’re nothing.
Jill M. Talbot's writing has appeared in Geist, Rattle, subTerrain, PRISM, The Stinging Fly, and others. Jill won the PRISM Grouse Grind Lit Prize. She was shortlisted for the Matrix Lit POP Award and the Malahat Far Horizons Award. Jill lives in Vancouver, BC.