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A Woman Without Her Neighborhood { 3 }

She said she didn’t know what else to wear to something like that. I didn’t ask her to explain the tennis rackets. A few weeks later when Ginnie let me put my arms around her, I said, “thank you for letting me be there for you, I know there are a lot of people who want to be there for you.” She chose me. No one knew where Mango was that week but her disappearance wasn’t surprising. But then we all drank a lot at a show and I’ve always had a crush on Ginnie’s brother and he put his hand on my knee and another on the small of my back that showed when I sat down. Then we shifted around when people got drinks and Ginnie ended up in the middle of us and I put my hand on her knee and he held my hand on her leg and I kept trying to shake him off but he kept squeezing my hand. And then I drank his beer and danced with him and gave him my number. Ginnie said it was fine because she sleeps with his friends all the time, but of course it wasn’t fine. I apologized later. I would have groveled but she would have been disgusted. He never called anyway.

There were other things on the periphery besides the body-stamp in the door. Silhouettes. Hazy figures in the distance too far to tell if they were going or coming. My precise, Jungian observations were almost always in vain. We couldn’t go back. By the time you notice you are no longer happy, you are too resentful of having been changed to ever be happy in the same faculty again. Even if you want to. By the time there are words for it, it’s too late. Suddenly the figures that were in the distance were on top of us.

Ginnie’s mom got sick and died and Holly as always sick and died too. Holly and I went to preschool together and then I didn’t see her even though she was there and then we were both outcasts and went to the Appalachian Mountains and held hands and read each other stories. We were near each other our whole lives until I left. That counted for something. She was too sick to live in the city. I didn’t know anyone in the city like I knew Holly. I knew her in her peacock-phase. Everything was peacocks.

I could have been on Ginnie’s side and she could have been on mine, but there we were with warring deaths that we carried around in our pockets and the bags under our eyes. We both looked like death and we should have done it together. Our hearts were filmy city grime on stranger’s arms. Heat filth. We were like detaching subways cars. I didn’t have anything to give her. To her, how could Holly’s death compare to losing her mother? She didn’t have parents anymore. Her dad had died when she was fifteen and she was an orphan at twenty-five and being an orphan is, it seems, like being in the middle of a tunnel that winds around a mountain so you cannot see the light at either end. And you cannot see your friends and you don’t have anything, not even a vision of your hand in front of your face. You have to convince yourself it’s there, over and over. You have to yell it to yourself. I’m just guessing, but I can hear her voice echoing a mantra. She says to herself: Those are my footsteps I hear under my breath.

I lost track of Ginnie. I spent my time with Holly’s parents in Long Island, eyeing Holly’s red wallet with holes in the seams. Eyeing the dress she wore to my birthday party. I wanted those things, but I couldn’t ask. I thought of stealing them, and imagined they would know and understand, but I couldn’t do that either. We looked at slides from when she was sick. We looked at slides from when she was getting better and from when she wore pink. It counted for something that I knew her when she wore pink, and when she had a strong aversion to it, and then when she no longer cared. I showed them the film we made together of us peeling rotten apples naked. I was embarrassed with her dad there, but they were only looking at Holly’s nakedness. Her pubic hair and her bloody finger when she sliced her thumb by accident and laughed. We cried while the ocean was berating the shore outside. I forgot about Ginnie because I had to. I couldn’t be there. I’ll never know if she even wanted me.

The last time I saw Ginnie was just before she left the city. The leaf-peepers were arriving too early for the foliage. We talked about feminism and other theories but said nothing new and then talked about how we had nothing new to say on the matter. We didn’t talk about the cult, but Ginnie said Mango might have figured out how to harvest bedbugs in a controlled system. Then she told me a story from her childhood about her father planting a fake spider in her bed and laughing when she screamed and her heart seemed to stop. I didn’t know anything about Ginnie’s childhood. I didn’t have room to know or room for the guilt I felt for not having room.

On the way to the subway, just before we parted, we passed under scaffolding and were stopped short by a tinny noise and then a thundering sheet of metal striking the sidewalk in front of us. “Get away from me kiddies. Get away from me kiddies.” A voiced hacked at us from behind a blue tarp fort set into a hole in the structure. It came in pairs and there was a dipthong and a mechanical jump in octave between the words “away” and “from.” She stuck her matted head out. “You Italian whore guinea pig!” She called out as we dodged her metal shield and ran back the way we came. She waved her metal after us. Long after we were gone she was still waving. The other way was a feces-dodging walk but less dangerous. We should have laughed. The frightening twins of warning, “get away from me kiddies” and their metal thunder counterpart from nowhere – it was like a spook house at a county fair. Ginnie said she thought the woman looked a little like her mother. But I thought the woman looked a little like an old Ginnie and Ginnie didn’t look like her mother. The woman behind the blue tarp was the first person I’d seen in the city who was alone and wanted to stay alone.

At the subway we parted; Ginnie was staying with an ex-boyfriend. But we hugged in a one-and-a-half kind of way. We weren’t sure when to let go, so we let go on the half-beat. But it was a heavy embrace, our chests pressed together, her weight stamping my necklace into my skin under my shirt, digging and painful enough to make a bruise, but not painful enough to let go. I hoped someone would see us together.

{ Continue to Page 4 of 5 }

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