Sometimes I forget the names of books, the ones I like the most. My memory is bad, and I’m also ashamed of what I think about literature—I can only open up to a few people in this way. I work in a bookstore, so this isn’t a good quality.
After work, I walk home in the dark. Sometimes on the way I stop at a gourmet food shop, knowing I don’t belong there, and yet feeling that I do. I buy a small jar of something, like pumpkin butter, and I have a friend—a cousin—who likes to come over sometimes after she’s finished working at the hotel. She’s young and so working at the hotel doesn’t bother her. I am already too old to be able to work at a hotel, though I did work at one once, and I am only a few years older than her. We come from a long line of women who have worked in hotels.
I clean my apartment until it’s immaculate so that it feels like a good place to be, a kind of nest for my cousin and I when she comes to visit. A place safe from this rich city, though we play at a certain kind of richness. Once I slapped my cousin so hard she fell down. It was because of something that had happened in our family, and I know now I was wrong. She forgave me. In our family we are good at that.
When I was a child I thought no one had experienced the world like I had. I would sit next to the ocean and think, no one knows the ocean like I do. No one has ever been this close to it. I didn’t actually say these things in my mind, I just knew them to be true. My connection to the ocean; my walk through the tropical night. If I walked long enough I came to farmland.
One night when I was working in the bookstore my cousin called to tell me she had hurt herself at the hotel.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I cut myself with a pair of scissors. One of the customers left them under a towel on the bathroom floor. I didn’t know the scissors were there. Now my hand won’t stop bleeding.”
“Clarice, tell your manager. Don’t just let your hand bleed.”
“Okay, I’ll tell him.”
“There must be a first aid kit.”
“There is. I’ve seen it. Once I had to get a band aid for someone.”
“How bad is your hand?”
“Not that bad. It just startled me. I didn’t know I was going to get cut when I picked up the towel.”
“Should I come get you?”
“When your shift is over.”