I placed my apron inside my locker at the café when my morning shift was done. Stacey, the lunchtime waitress, had already taken my place behind the counter, serving the customers their orders with a smile as fake as her tits.
Putting my hoodie on over my head, I got out of the café. The traffic was busy at this time of the day. People were rushing to hit a diner and meet their friends on their lunch breaks.
I was rushing, too, not to meet a friend or having something to eat. I was rushing to be on time for my second job. Walking faster, I pushed my way between people and ignored the horns that were screaming wordless curses at me for not waiting for the green light. I was in a hurry.
When I finally reached the beauty salon, I changed into my uniform in the staff room. The cleaning supplies were ready for me to use. I found this job only last week. This part of the town was an upgrade for me. With no higher education and not enough experiences, I was applying for every position I could find.
As women paid to be pampered by strangers, I was working in the backstage, cleaning the rooms they left. It was exhausting especially after a morning shift at the café, but it was at least distracting. As I scrubbed the surfaces to perfection, there wasn’t much room for me to think. It was also busy enough in the salon, no one was trying to make conversation which was fine for me.
The hours passed in cleaning chemical smells. After changing my outfit back to my own clothes, I knocked my boss’ office door.
I entered Miss Daisy’s ridiculously pink office. Her face turned into that disgusted expression when she saw me.
“I’m here to get my weekly salary, Miss Daisy,” I said, ignoring her bitchy face.
She sipped from her teacup with floral design and crossed her arms over her chest. I counted to ten while she took her time before talking. Finally, she put a fake smile on her face.
“Maya, I’m glad you stopped by, I was just going to call for you. I’m afraid we won’t keep working together,” she said.
“Are you firing me? But why?”
“Don’t question me, little lady,” she snapped.
Gritting my teeth, I forced down all the curses. “Okay. Then pay me my weekly salary.”
“No, salary,” she shook her head. “You were on a trial week. You couldn’t pass it.”
“I worked a week in here. I earned it.”
“Enough discussion. Close the door as you leave,” she dismissed me.
I could’ve fought harder, I thought. Maybe I could’ve made a scene and called the police, but I wasn’t naive enough to believe that anyone would take my side. So instead, I swallowed everything down.
I was going to rise again. If this job didn’t work out, I was going to find a new one. I was going to make it, I always did.
I kept repeating the same pep talk I always gave to myself whenever things got rough. But every time I needed to repeat these words, my belief was fading. With emotional exhaustion, I dragged my body through the streets until I reach the bar. My third spot to make some money to keep living. Joe’s Bar was better than the other places I worked, not because it paid better, it didn’t, but because the boss gave free dinners to employees. Also, I had a small sanctuary behind the lockers to get an hour of rest before my shift starts. That one hour of silence and calm was such a luxury in my life.
My feet were killing me. That was what happened when you work for 36 hours in three different jobs without getting any rest. Thankfully, there was no shift at the café in the morning, and I was going to be able to get some rest.
After cleaning the countertop and drying up the glasses, I took off my bartender shirt that shows off more than it hid –almost see-through white shirt, knotted just under my breasts with deep cleavage– and changed into my sweatshirt.
“Good night, Maya,” Ryder, the only male waiter at the bar, said.
I only nodded, feeling too tired to talk. It didn’t matter though, he wasn’t my friend. He just pitied me because I didn’t have any friends, so it was his way of being the nice person. I sometimes wished I had a friend, only one, but there was no way I could have any. Not because I was unfriendly or rude, I was just sad, and the melancholy was dripping from my soul. People feel those kind of things, they say they’re always there if you want to share your pathetic life with them, they would make you believe like talking about your life won’t be a problem. In the end, they would put distance from you – they would start by not sharing things with you, they would become closer to others and the distance between you and your friend grows bigger and bigger. You only turn into a girl with too many problems. People want friends to have fun together, and that wasn’t something I could offer to anyone. So instead of trying to make friends, I gave up altogether. I was a loner, and that was fine.
When I got out of the bar, it was almost sunrise. The streets were empty, the sky began to lighten up even though it was cloudy. This was my favorite time of the day; me and the city alone, only my thoughts and the chill of the morning air. I walked to South Park, the place others forgot about and turned their faces to another side not to see what was happening in these streets. This place was like us –raw, in pain, and hopeless, the cancerous part of the city that needed to be cut out. But South Park was the only place I knew, the only place I could blend in and be invisible. Outside of it, I was a freak among people, but in here I was no one in the sea of no ones.
The smell that soaked me till my bones got stronger with every step – like unclean aquarium mixed with heavy industrial chemicals. There was shouting that reached to my ear from one of the houses, groaning from the homeless people on the sidewalk. This place was suffering, agonized. I stopped outside of my house, the place was run-down. I was sure it had better days; the time when the brick wall had a color, the garden was green, and people were happy. Now the walls were covered in moss, the garden was conquered by blackberry bushes that didn’t have any blackberry’s. Even they were dead, like the souls who lived inside.
I stepped into my house, sighing as I looked at the mess around the small space. Cheap beer bottles scattered everywhere, spoon and needles were on the coffee table I grabbed from next to a trash can. I heard a moaning come from my mother’s room and ran toward there with panic.
“Mom?” I called into the room before opening the door. When I did it wasn’t mom I saw, instead I came face to face with my dad’s naked ass as he fucked a woman that wasn’t my mother in my mom’s bed. It wasn’t the first time I caught him in action, he was using the place just for his fuckfest. He was never a father to me, but I still kept hoping he’d change after the last argument; we kept arguing, and he never changed. They were still fucking like I wasn’t there. Fuming, I had enough. I couldn’t deal with him any longer.
“Get the fuck out of my house. Now,” I shouted, throwing the clothes on the floor at them.
“Calm down, girl. Let us finish, and we’ll go,” he slurred, a stupid grin was on his flushed and sweaty face.
“I don’t want to see you ever again,” I said and shut the door behind me, heading toward my room to see if mom was there.
I walked closer to my bed when I saw her fragile figure. “Mom?”
She didn’t respond. The room was still dark since my room didn’t get much sunlight. Turning on the lamp on my nightstand I crunched next to her to see better. She was pale, her face was next to her own vomit, and a needle was still stuck to her arm. For a second, I didn’t do anything but close my eyes and breath, giving myself just a second of peace before forcing my mind to work.
I stood up, pulling out my phone out of my jeans pocket and called 911. I sat on the floor, closed my eyes, and waited as my tears silently fell to my cheeks. They say when your heart is exhausted the sweat runs from your eyes and that was right. I was exhausted from this life, from everything. I sighed, forcing my thoughts into another direction since the destination of them wasn’t to a bright place. Thankfully, the paramedics came so much faster than I thought, and we headed toward the hospital. I didn’t understand what they were saying except that my mom was alive. For a second, I wasn’t sure if I was relieved or disappointed, but I shook myself. She was my mother.
The doctors surrounded my mother the moment we stepped into the ER. I was pushed aside to wait, there was nothing else I could do. I sat on the chair in the waiting room, looking at the familiar rectangular pattern wallpaper covered walls. I came in this hospital way more than I wanted to remember for the same reason and I counted the rectangles on the wallpaper so many times I know there were 793 blue rectangles on the walls. I didn’t know if I should’ve laughed or cried with the familiarity of this pathetic state I found myself.
I remembered the first time I came here. I was only twelve. A little girl who was scared for her mother, but at least I wasn’t alone then.
It was the same kind of day. The kids at school were still rude and still ridiculous. I didn’t understand half of the silliness they did during class or in the hallways. I didn’t know why, but I was always different from them. I didn’t find the things they found hilarious funny, I didn’t understand the reason behind their stupid banter or fights. They were always being dramatic for the things that weren’t important, like their clothes or the magazines they wanted or like the new game they wanted their parents to buy so they can play it this weekend. The kids my age didn’t make any sense to me as they seemed like they worried for nothing, at least nothing I called important, while my mind was always busy with the things I should’ve done in the house and how I could’ve helped Zeke better.
My teachers told me a few times I was mature for my age. I’m not even sure what that meant. Mature… the word almost sounded like an insult, proving that I was a freak like my supposed to be friends called me. But the thing was I didn’t know how to be a kid. I had responsibilities on my shoulder I didn’t ask to have. I had parents that didn’t act like parents, and I had Zeke who worked so hard for me to have everything I need. He didn’t even go to college so he could take care of me, so he didn’t have to leave me alone. Zeke could have gotten away from this place, but he didn't. He sacrificed his chance of freedom for me, and the least I could have done was help him.
With the same thoughts busied my mind, I walked the same road from school to home. I passed the same bookstore that was too small only one customer could come. If you wanted to buy something, you had to wait for the previous customer to leave before going in. I quickened my pace at the same dark alley Zeke warned me about. He would’ve never let me walk in that alley alone if he knew I was using that shortcut, but my shoes were taking water in from the puddles on the road. I didn’t have the choice of taking the longer path. I sighed when I passed the alleyway and took a deep breath when I caught the scent of coffee from the only coffee shop I knew. Zeke said the coffee in there was too bad, but I still loved when I had enough money to buy a cup of coffee from this shop. I had never tasted another coffee, so I didn’t have a chance to compare.
Finally, I walked by the colorful art on the industrial building’s wall and walked faster to get away from the smell in the air.
When I reached my house, everything looked the same there, too. Same dead blackberry bushes, same peeled off paint on the walls, and same muddy path until I reach the patio. But the things changed when I stepped inside the house. It was quiet, eerily so.
“Mom?” I called out, hoping she’d answer me even though she barely acknowledged me anymore. I didn’t know why, but I knew she hadn’t liked me, I forgot how it felt to be loved by a mother.
“Dad?” I tried this time, but I didn’t even think he would be home at this time of the day. Dad hardly came home, when he did he smelled like vomit, and he couldn’t even walk straight.
“Zeke?” I asked to the empty space, but I knew he must be still at work. He generally came around the same time with me only to leave again after dinner, but since I used the shortcut, I beat him this time.
I bit my lip, not liking the silence in the house. Swallowing the strange fear inside me, I walked toward my parent’s bedroom, even though they had never slept together there anymore. Pushing on the door, I smiled softly. Mom was sleeping on the bed.
I went toward her, hoping to sneak a kiss while she was sleeping, but all I could do was scream when I saw her face. She looked like a ghost. There were white bubbles coming out of her mouth, her lips were almost purple against her white skin.
I didn’t know how long I screamed or when I threw myself at her to shake her, but the next thing I knew was the strong arms around me.
“Shh, I’m here, baby girl. I’m here. Don’t be scared. She’ll be okay,” he whispered again and again until we arrived at the hospital.
As doctors took care of my mom, Zeke held me close, giving me strength without even doing anything but being with me. When Zeke was with me, I didn’t feel fear. When he held me, I knew everything would be alright, because he made my life, my day better. He made everything better.
I needed him to make my day better again.
My finger hovered on the dial button of the only person I wanted to call, but I didn’t even know if his number was still the same. I hadn’t heard from him for two years since that day I ridiculously embarrassed myself and probably disgusted him too much he didn’t even want to see me once.
I was tired.
I was scared.
I was alone.