Dime story

this is what i read at dime stories:

Faced with an empty cardboard tube, I went looking for toilet paper underneath the sink at Michaela’s apartment. I found instead a pack of Oreos and a pouch of Capri-sun.

Downtown San Jose is an underrated place to be. It has some of the best taquerias I have ever been to and also some of the most beautifully decrepit corners of the country. Michaela and I, after having devoured two excellent steak burritos with orange sauce on a certain summer twilight, wandered into the yellowing light of San Jose State University. It was a little misty for the time of year but also balmy, the air warm.

“I have to pee,” I said.

“The bathroom’s this way,” Michaela said and steered me left toward a staff building. Then she switched directions. “Never mind, this bathroom is never open.”

“How is it that you know everything about this city?” I asked.

She laughed. “I’ve lived here for a while.”

As we walked toward another building, she pointed to a squat bush. “I’ve lived there,” she said. She pointed to an elm tree. “I’ve lived there too.”

I was quiet, awaiting explanations. “I waited behind that bush with a set of legos for my mom. She left me there in the morning with a vinyl backpack filled with legos and a bag of chips, saying ‘wait for me, baby. I’ll be back for you in the evening. Don’t go anywhere and don’t talk to strangers.’”

Michaela’s head was down and I couldn’t see her face, but her voice sounded lovely like it always did when she talked about her mother. “I hated it then, her leaving me, but I know how hard it must have been to look for a job with a kid tagging along. She also looked for shelters and soup kitchens, but I know that more than anything, she looked for a job.”

I nodded. I forgot about having to pee. It seemed unnecessary. A group of drunk girls walked past us, singing La Vie en Rose at the top of their lungs. The evening must have felt so ripe for them.

“One time an old man came up to me and asked if I was lost. I left my backpack on the ground and ran away as fast as I could to that elm tree. My mom told me never to trust men.” Michaela laughed and raised her eyebrows at me knowingly. In that laugh I saw a fading photograph of her mother, fat and blonde, so unlike her dark-skinned daughter, except for their expansive, crinkled mirth.

“Sometimes she would give me two or three packs of chips or pretzels, in case I got hungry later in the day. But I was hungry all the time and ate them all at once. So I started playing this game where I would hide a bag of chips deep in a bush, and on the days where I wouldn’t have any food at all, I knew where to look. I loved both the element of surprise and also of certainty”

“Yeah,” I said weakly, “certainty is a nice feeling.”

“Yeah,” she said. “It was never a familiar feeling, and after she died, it became even more distant, but I try to keep it around for the sake of my sanity. Oh, try that door. That should be the bathroom.”

“Thanks,” I said.

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1 Comment

  1. I love

    “fat and blonde, so unlike her dark-skinned daughter, except for their expansive, crinkled mirth”

    When are you coming to New Orleans to see me


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