I am not terrified until the third night.
I stay at an all-night cafe. I order coffee. I stare at my computer screen. I pretend to type something, anything.
My shower was this morning. I look just like everyone else. There is not one way in which I stand out. This could be any ordinary day. But it is the day I died.
When the library closes, I head to another cafe. The coffee starts out stale and goes downhill from there. I want to search social media. Surely, someone has missed me by now. My mother. My roommate. Someone wonders where I could possibly be. Perhaps they’ve called Evelyn. Perhaps they’ve contacted police.
No. They would wait. See if their impetuous loved one ran off on some new adventure.
I wrap fingers around the hot cup before me as if it is the last vine on the cliff face and I hold on for daylight.
The library can be a nice place to sleep. Or at least it served that purpose today. Among the driest stacks known to mankind, I curled into a tight ball and forced myself to be blank. It honestly took little to find sleep. No one happened upon me, or if they did they left me where I drooled.
Now night has come, the library has closed, and I return to the first cafe.
“Did you hear about this missing lady?”
The conversation sparks behind me. I feel trapped.
“People, like, go missing every day.”
The two women sound youngish. Maybe college students.
“Yeah, but not after being on, like, national news.”
I hear the scuffle of chairs on laminate and guess the second woman is moving for a better view.
“Yeah,” says first girl. “She was, like, a writer or something and she was totes scamming this other lady who lost, like, her husband and kid. There was a fallout or whatever and poof! Writer lady dis-a-ppeared. Right out of a train station. Like, she boarded one train and then never reached her destination.”
“This is her, like, in the train station. The last image of her anywhere.”
I feel utterly exposed. Without bothering to shut down, I snap closed my laptop and walk into the night.
I don’t know what to do. Here I am, a newly born social activist, flung from the womb of safety I’ve always known. But I don’t treat it that way. I pretend to be a late-night coffee junkie on deadline. I pretend to research (when I’m not sleeping) the day away in the library. I pretend I’m not on the street, by choice or otherwise. Maybe because I don’t have to be. Maybe because I could still fly home to my nest in my loft where I belong.
I forget whether I’m lying to myself or to others. And now, if only for a moment, the world will look for me.