Night fell hours ago. I walked for my life. The life to which I long to return. Whatever is lurking in the night, I ignore.
I make it to my locker, where I hope Evelyn left sufficient money for a ticket home. Who knew the rattle of a tin locker could be so sweet?
Inside is a backpack. It smells of laundry soap. It’s crumpled, possibly empty. But on top of the pack sits an envelope, no name. I open it with equal parts fear and yearning. Coins fall into my hand. Coins. Not the bills I had dared to hope would be inside.
You will not go home. I know you will not because you are reading this instead of calling your mother. You have come here, where you knew I would be waiting, so that I could grant you courage. Have it all. Have all the courage I can give you. Now, call the number I printed at the bottom and ask for Cindi. She will be expecting you. You will be given a small private room with a sleeping bunk only. You will have access to the group bathroom. You will be offered birth control pills, which you will accept. Stay tonight and one additional night. Sleep and clean yourself. Then return to the streets that are your chosen home. Once time enough has passed, you will be able to change your station yet again. That time has not yet come. Your parents are saddened by your absence, and I have met with them. They are strong and will be fine.
My first instinct is to kick the lockers. Followed closely by my impulse to rip the letter to shreds. I do neither. Instead, I walk to the payphone and call Cindi. She expects me. My room is ready. My remaining cash from a week ago buys a train ride closer to the shelter where Cindi awaits my arrival.
I hate Evelyn. Yet, I still called Cindi. I still bought a ticket back into the belly of D.C. I still don’t call my mom.
I want to believe it’s because I need sleep and a shower so badly. I want to believe that, once I’m rested, the world will come into focus and I will go home. I want to believe that this ill-advised escapade is almost over.
The part of me that believes such fantasies is the unbroken part. My brokenness isn’t yet complete. But it is the brokenness that will triumph. I know it. I ignore it. Such is vital to my survival.
In the most buried grey matter, I consider the sway Evelyn holds over me. I wonder whether she is evil. I conceive of myself as both her victim and her instrument.
Those thoughts stay buried. Where they nourish me somehow. Or where I nourish them. Or, more specifically, where I pardon my actions and convict Evelyn’s so that I can live with myself and all that has transpired.