She awoke, puckered, cold, and naked. She hadn't brought a towel, and had to use her sweatshirt to dry herself, before limping damply back to her room. It was dark, but she didn't dare turn the light on, and was forced to fumble through her drawers in the dark. A clean pair of jeans and a new T-shirt made her feel much better, but started to realize how hungry she was. There wasn't much left in her mini fridge, either. The realization dawned that it was the cafeteria or bust. The thought of leaving her room was a bundle of anxiety in her head, but what other choice was there. She dug out the four inch claw hammer her father had given her when she had moved here, so she could hang pictures on her wall. It was comfortingly heavy in her hand, as she padded down the flights, and across the building in bare feet. She had tried to get shoes from her closet, but every time she opened its door, row upon row of paired empty sockets had stared up at her, like the cockeyed shoes in the hallways, and she had been left crying in a puddle on the floor. She’d tried it twice now.
It was half way across the North block basement hall that she heard it. A voice. Distant, male, conversational in tone. She froze, her mind reeling to calculate whether it was safer to run forwards, or go back. She was still vacillating when a door not 30 feet in front flew open, and a man hove into view. He had blonde hair over a craggy jaw, and black smudged eyes, like a sleep deprived Robert Redford. He was carrying a flat panel computer monitor under each arm. She didn't see any more before turning to flee, driving her bare feet again and again into the linoleum, accelerating away. She swung sharply into the Number Two stairwell and half a flight up was stopped in her tracks by the breach.
A window had been smashed in, and shards of glass lay all over the landing. It was not a large window, but the gaping wound it left seemed enormous. The poison had a way in. Clara stepped gingerly around the largest pieces of glass, one arm held out for balance, the other clutched to her chest to keep it from shaking. She was able to stretch her foot directly up to the third step, and once balanced there, ran like there was a wolf at her heels until she was back in the safety of her kitchenette. She didn't feel hungry any more, only slightly dizzy. It wasn’t for hours until she ventured forth again. It was hunger’s return that made her do it. She kneeled behind her door for half an hour listening for intruders, and peeking out through the half inch gap between her door and the floor.
Everything seemed clear, so she tiptoed as fast as quietitude allowed, over to Mary-Jo's room. The sense of intruding was so strong that she didn't dare touch the light switch. The mini fridge, though, quickly surrendered a jar of miracle whip, a banana, a bundle of asparagus, and a 6 pack of plastic diet coke bottles. She looked in the cupboard over the microwave, and there were two packs of Ramen Noodles, a can of tuna. Scooping them clumsily into her arms, she pleaded with Jesus not to blame her as she ran-walked back to her room to cook.
Later, as dusk started to fall and she was pressed flat against her wall, reaching sideways to lower the blind to the outside world without anything being able to see her in through the window, she heard a voice in the hallway outside. Only fragments came through loudly enough to decipher.
"...among you... stones... people go."
She ran to close her door, then tried to place the voice as she squatted, trying not to shake. It was familiar, but clearly nobody from the college. She pressed her head to the bottom of her door to peer out. A one sided mumbling was taking place on the other side, like half a phone call. Eventually a shoe came into view. It stood diffidently for a moment, then paced back out of her sightline, then back in and out again. It was a dirty off-white sneaker, with untied laces.
Aha. She had it in a flash. Foot Washer Charlie. That's who it was! Crazy Charlie! The panicked realization dawned that she much have dropped the hammer in the hallway downstairs with the monitor man. She felt defenseless.
Some Women I Love
4 weeks ago