The sharp knock wakes me eventually. My stomach churns with last night’s Thai food and this morning’s itinerary. I answer to make the knocking stop. The person outside – not Cindi – reminds me I must exit the housing portion of the building within thirty minutes.
I rise, pack my few belongings, and leave. Cindi is not near her office or anywhere on my route to the sidewalk. I can’t very well ask about her. I am transient. I am untethered. I am vagrant.
It took only seven days for me to need Cindi; yet, I cannot return to her for three more weeks. So that’s my timeline. Three weeks.
I’m not prepared to start a site. I don’t want to do that yet. It feels too raw, too obvious.
I want to spend the day sightseeing, basking in the glow of history. But I won’t do that either. Too many cameras. Too many people from too many places.
So I follow the others flowing from Cindi’s house into the street. At first and for a time, no one talks to me. The lines of people thin, separate, parting into rivulets. I cannot follow all of them and I don’t know the city well enough to anticipate where any single line may end up.
The least furtive glances come from a group of young people, probably a few years younger than I am. They seem intrigued, maybe even interested in learning more about me. To use me or recruit me. To befriend me or despise me. I have no clue.
“You followin’ us?” Though he yells back to me, the guy doesn’t sound threatening in any way, but perhaps that is by design.
“Nope,” I say, breaking eye contact. We all keep walking.
“Hey! What’s your name?” He walks backwards. The others face forward with shaking shoulders and hands reaching to cover wide grins, guffaws.
“I don’t have one,” I call to them. I arrange my face in the least invested way manageable. Like I couldn’t care less.
They howl with laughter, but one stops, turns around. She walks toward me. The others laugh and exchange words I can’t quite hear.
The girl – or I suppose I should call her woman, since she clearly has more street time than I do – anyway, the girl walks right up to me.
“No name, huh?”
“Cindi don’t let people in without a name.”
I shrug as if such things are beneath me.
“New, huh?” She can smell the new on me.
“Depends?” She cackles. It seems like a million years since I heard such laughter. “You all right.”
“Hey!” She yells to her cronies. “She all right!”
Back to me, she says, “Come on. We all right too.”
We jog, which is barely faster than walking but with more emphasis. We catch up and she introduces me as Noname, pronounced No-nom-e. It’s an inside joke here. They all know what it means. They greet me as an old friend. I lose my direction in the hubbub and wonder where I’m being carried. How far. How fast. How deep.