It’s been a week, and the whole world was made in a week, if you know what I mean.
I don’t really know – not any more. Mom is gone, and isn’t coming back for me.
I’ve had headaches every morning, the kind that make you see spots and chew on your pillow.
My dreams have been of glue sticks and zine creation at mental hospitals, and running across the world through shady corners past subway turnstiles.
I’m aiming for a plea of insanity, but my fake Dad in the other hotel room is opposite evidence.
Did I mention the life-sized, plastic Figma robot? I was saving that for when I took the stand, “Your honor, I’ve been having a secret affair with a Ghost statue!” All of the lawyers would object, and they’d drag me off smiling to the asylum.
Like I said. The whole world in a week. I never believed that, nor in angels or miracles or prayers carried to Heaven on the wings of dove-love.
I didn’t believe what Tokie and Aurora and Kaia were trying to tell me at the beginning of this year.
It’s not that I won’t accept what my eyes can’t stare at – I won’t accept my eyes if I disagree with their visions. I’ll reject my brain before changing my mind, and that was working wonders for me until Mom left.
I spent a whole morning just hanging out at Crossroads, going into each shop and asking them if they had seen her, “Hard to miss, all punk up in your face?” They hadn’t seen her. She’d been there every day since we arrived over a month ago, and no one remembered.
I even went back in Target, and this time I didn’t trip out or faint or anything, but she wasn’t there either.
I wasn’t used to this, to have to look for her. She was always right there around the corner despite myself, and I never lost her at the park, or at the movie theater, or anywhere. She just always was. Always.
Now, she wasn’t. I couldn’t feel her at all. Didn’t even know I could, until she left me here alone. It sucked.
As I left Target, I saw that same girl from before, the one wearing the red and black Circle X uniform. This time she was pushing around a red, plastic shopping cart full of empty soda and water bottles, and she stopped at each garbage can to dig for redemption gold.
I knew that Mom recognized her, so maybe? I turned off my freak flag detector and walked up to her while she pulled out a small Coke bottle. She squinted at me, and then gave the same smile as before.
“There you are. I was worried after yesterday.” She swatted at an invisible fly, and then reached in the cart and gave me a clear water bottle. “I was born to recycle, you know? No you don’t!” She gave a snorty laugh and then took the bottle back. Apparently she was way too fast for me, since it already was out of her hands, and I didn’t see her throw it back.
Apparently. I used to like that word, full of wiggle room and hope. Now, I got as much hope as rope – only enough for one good hanging.
It’s OK – don’t worry about me. Like I said, fake Dad is in the other room, stuffing plastic bottles into his chest. It’s all going to be perfectly great from now on.
The girl with the Circle X uniform and bottles was Sasha. She said she grew up around here, along with Mom. “It was a little different then.” Another snort and smile, as she pushed the cart again and motioned for me to follow.
“Where is she?” I must have looked like some kid lusting after the ice cream truck, “where!”
“Just wait a minute, alright?” We were taking the same route that Mom dragged me down yesterday, around the corner and towards the loading docks. “This body has survived since 2000, but I don’t have too many bottles left in me.”
So she was drunk? I was trying my best to follow, but I just wanted the map to break into celebrities homes, so I could hold them hostage in exchange for my Mom.
“OK, fine.” Sasha stopped the cart and turned to face me. Her eyes had this weird twinkle in them. “Cathy is here, but not yet. When she gets here, she’ll be gone.”
Fucking fortune cookie face smash, but instead I just nodded and walked away.
“Miranda.” She knew my name without me saying it. “If you don’t believe me, then come back tomorrow around now. We’ll clear up your head in no time.”
With that, she waived in my general direction like she finally found that fly, and then continued with her bottle collection.
I looked all around St. Cloud that day, but no luck. By the time the sun started to set in Waite Park, I decided to take the semi-long walk back to the hotel. Past the huge water tower and Chinese Star buffet, and over the train tracks. I even sat at the stupid seats where you could look down and watch the train pass, if you actually knew when it was going to pass.
I’m not a train passing kind of girl, but I forced myself to sit anyway. A small cloud of gnats had been following me around all day, since I wasn’t shying away from the more grassy areas during my search. So I kept waiving and slapping and imagining I knew what it felt like to be a bottle-collecting girl with big dreams and aspirations.
No train, for minutes on end. Looking down at the tracks, I started to picture a big freight train coming after all. I would feel the slow rumble past the unfortunate houses, shield my eyes from the bright headlamps, and just at the right moment, jump.
Like I said, no worries. No hanging or jumping or piles of pills. I’m too crazy to tolerate such uncertainty.
You already know what happened next, essentially. I told the front desk that Mom was out of town, but that she’d be back extremely soon. If that big-eared boy was round, it would have been fine. But the night supervisor was all blonde and eye-glassy and wearing dry-cleaned stuff, so I got the feeling she would only give me a face full of doubts. She glared at my big stack of twenties, and then told me that she needed a credit card on file as soon as my Mom came back.
She doesn’t have a credit card, or credit union account, or any account whatsoever. That was evil talk in our real house, tents and hotel rooms. Accounts let them keep account of you, like just another number. “You’re so much more than that, Mira. You’re too good to let them know how good you are.”
So. Nightmares about sleepwalking to a tattoo shop to get Tokie’s name as a cursive tramp stamp. Continental bagel-jam explosion for breakfast.
Why did I walk over to Crossroads center again? I wanted to find my Mom, but even more than that, I wanted to be entertained by the truth. To get joy from tiny promises kept, even if they were from bottle ladies. I wanted a clear head because if she wasn’t coming back, if I had to survive from that point onward all by myself, I wanted to leave St. Cloud without all of the baggage she strapped on me over the years.
I didn’t even walk into the mall this time. I just went around past Sears, and back to the long, dead-end driveway that could fit a handful of truck trailers. Sitting on the lip of an empty loading dock was Sasha, and some other girl I hadn’t/had seen before. It was all deja vu, all the time last week.
Sasha saw me – she was still wearing that same Circle X outfit – and she immediately jumped down, got behind her now empty cart, and moved it to right below her friend. The new girl was red haired, wearing a baby blue t-shirt, that had a photo of another girl on it, who was holding a sign that said “antizine!”.
I couldn’t see all that detail then. But I had lots of time to check it out after she jumped in the cart, and Sasha pushed her over to me with vigor.
Extreme with the vigor – they weren’t going to stop, so I jumped out of the way at the last second. “Fuck you!”
“Oh yeah! She has a pulse!” T-shirt girl jumped out of the red cart and held out her hand to me. “One small step for woman…”
I came all of that way, two whole blocks, that I felt fully committed. So I took her hand.
Remember my fake Dad in the other hotel room? I was shaking his plastic hand right now, feeling the hard, smooth, cold joints hidden by a Die Database strength holographic Ghost.
“I wish I had a bathtub so I could push you in and yell Eureka!” That was Frisbee, piloting from the other side. I didn’t know who she was then, but now I do. I really do – not just from antizine, but first hand stories that were never printed.
Sasha came over and touched me on the cheek – the same plastic surprise inside.
“I’ve been waiting 11 years for you, in all the Fairviews and St. Clouds that the Twins could muster.” She gave me a extra-probing look in the eye, and then smiled again. “Phone would be so proud of you.”
My brain gears were chugging, all steamy and racing.
“Don’t worry, Cathy no longer controls this town. Or you. We’re going to bring Phone back really soon, as soon as we fill the cart again and cough up Jenny.”
No. No. Don’t. Yes?
The train track switches are all on, and it’s coming with a vigor right at me.
That stupid fucking old guy with the beard and black hoodie, attacking Satomi and dying at the Die Database concert.
Kaia’s ex-boyfriend. Phone.
“It’s going to be OK, dear. When your mother comes back to Fairview in 2000, to St. Cloud right now, we’ll be ready for her.”
Did I watch the father I never knew die half way around the world?
Yes. Yes I did.
Now he’s right there in the other room, a Ghost from beyond the ashy end come to make things right.
It’s been a week since we met. We had words – I made sure to yell my part.
He didn’t know I existed. He loves me. He wants me to call him Brian.
I told him not to speak unless spoken to, at least not yet.
That’s OK, because he has a job to do. He spends all day telecommuting from the great beyond to this hotel, making the plastic bottle girls that are supposed to save the day. Every time a new one comes we book a room for them. The first and last Collective Convention starts soon, and they’re mind-forcing the dry-cleaner night supervisor to arrange it.
I’m still trying hard to give a fuck, to fill my empty head with the hurtful truth that lights up everything.
Amazing, wow, anyway – I’m much more excited about the Minnesota State Fair that starts next week, outside of Minneapolis.
I’ve already bought a fistful of $9 tickets from Cash Wise, and I just can’t wait leave this town forever, and use them for a whole week of joy on a stick.
The whole world was made in a week, if you know what I mean.