It was raining outside. Not a good rain. Not a hard, cleansing angry thunderstorm of a rain. It was a shitty, all day misty, cloud on the earth kind of rain. A depressing, sad, gross sweaty kind of rain. A Monday kind of rain.
Petula Clark was failing miserably at cheering up Sheryl from her radio:
“When you’re alone, and life is making you lonely. You can always go Downtown.
When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry seems to help, I know Downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city; Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty; How can you lose? The lights are much brighter there; You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares; So go downtown, things’ll be great when you’re Downtown, no finer place for sure; Downtown everything’s waiting for you…”
Petula didn’t know shit today. Yesterday she would have been on the ball but today…not even close. Sheryl buried herself deep under her covers to escape from the reality of this kind of a day.
There was time yet. It didn’t get busy until lunch times and after work hours mostly. For now she could remain immobile and pretend the world didn’t exist beyond the warmth of her sheets and the Hudson’s Bay blanket she stole from her mother the day she was kicked out. It was probably the most expensive thing she owned which made her laugh out loud to herself.
9 am came and went and then 10 am and Sheryl remained motionless in bed smoking and listening to the traffic outside of her window. She liked the sounds of the city – there were cars going to and fro, ambulance and police sirens in the distance coming near and going away again, blasts of horns, angry shouts and a general buzz of life that she could draw on. Sometimes she would lay in bed on mornings like this and try to imagine the arguments between two drivers.
She imagined a great lout of a man, huge and cumbersome in grey track pants and a white t-shirt, Italian with jet black hair slicked back, maybe late 30s. She imagined him stuck in traffic behind some weasel-necked office type in his suit and tie; some kid like her, maybe 25…a bit older.
She imagined slick rumbling from his car to have a “chat” with weasel boy. Weasel boy would appear amused but sweat would bead on his forehead barely visible. Eventually he would start to roll up his window in an attempt to ignore slick but slick would not have it and would reach through the window and open the door from the inside whereupon he would drag weasel from his car get in and drive it across the street and onto the sidewalk out of the way of his own car.
Then he would get out and throw the keys through the open door of the shoe store across from him to the loud protest of weasel boy who would get smacked on the ear hard for good measure before slick would get into his own car and drive off laughing.
Sheryl prided herself on her imagination.
She could linger forever in bed or at her window making up tales far more interesting then what her eyes could see. Far more interesting than the boring routine of her own life.
By 10:30 she knew she had to prepare. She had to shower and then put her shitty hair in shitty curlers so that after she sat in the shitty hairdryer for a while she could tease it up into a grand bouffant.
Already tall the hair style made her that much taller – taller than most of her clients by several inches. She enjoyed this and imagined that in some way it heightened a sense of inadequacy in them like it did with Jimmy. She wondered if they knew how hard she laughed at them inside.
All of them were older…much older but not all of them were bad. Some of them were actually fairly nice – she hated these ones the most. These sad-eyed men who paid her to talk. Who droned on and on about their horrible lives trapped with domineering wife and kids who would never leave them alone. They were so unoriginal, so boring and so infuriating that they thought they had it bad.
Why couldn’t they just fuck her in silence and leave. It would be so much better than having to sit and listen. To have to politely decline offers of dinner out – as if she wanted to be seen with such people. Pathetic.
As they talked she often drifted into one of her daydreams where she imagined doing something horrible to them. She imagined walking over to the kettle and putting it on for coffee (they like having coffee with her like they were somehow “together”). She would encourage them to keep talking as she busied herself with cups and sugar and then, when the kettle boiled she would take the pot off the stove and dump it over their idiot heads standing their while they screamed.
Of course she would never do such a thing in real life…how could she ever get away with it – that kind of screaming would bring a dozen people to her door in 10 seconds. She just listened and nodded sympathetically. She would smile and hug them goodbye while they fumbled with cash.
It was near 11:30 by the time her hair was done and Sheryl, behind schedule, was putting make up on at the kitchen table with the help of a small round mirror she had scavenged from the apartment across the hall on the day her neighbours moved out two months ago.
She snuck over on moving day between box loads and snagged the mirror and a stack of Chatelaine magazines. She didn’t feel bad. They owed her for all the complaining they did to the super.
She particularly enjoyed the fight that ensued between them when bitch noticed her mirror was gone and bastard told her it was probably just in a different box.
“Don’t fucking tell me where I put my own god damn mirror!” shouted bitch. “I know where the fucking mirror was – RIGHT HERE IN THIS FUCKING BOX.
“Shut up about your stupid mirror FUCK!” bastard shouted back after which there was some scuffling like they might have been pushing each other followed by a loud SMACK and the sounds of heavy boots stomping away.
Sheryl remembered this fondly as she continued to apply her makeup.
She knew she was done when she could no longer stand the look of herself in the mirror. Her black cat-eyed eyeliner with too much foundation, too much rouge and way too much lipstick. It made her sick. She felt like a clown but it was what they liked. They liked it when they could mess her up and smear lipstick all over her mouth. She thought they liked the possibility of clues being left as if they were bravely taking risks instead of simply being inhuman thieves.
As Sheryl was finishing up and stashing her shoebox of makeup under the sink in the bathroom the phone rang making her jump. She hated the intrusive and brazen sound of those bells. She ran to the phone, an avocado green affair, and lifted the receiver to her ear.
“Hullo?” She said.
“Lindy? Is this Lindy?” a quiet, nervous voice at the other end asked.
“Hullo _______, you know it is” said Sheryl annoyed at being asked.
It was Mr. A, an Italian tailor who ran a small shop several blocks south of her. She was lucky enough that he could get away early for lunch because his nephew was apprenticing with him and it would do him good to work for a bit alone and manage the place.
Mr. A was very old – maybe 50, and somehow skinnier even then Sheryl. He was all angles and points and she always came away from his visits bruised. Being with Mr. A felt like having been thrown into a small box of rocks and shaken around with them for five to 10 minutes.
About twenty minutes later there was a quiet knock at Sheryl’s door and she moved to answer it. By now Sheryl was dressed in a sheer pink cover with pink faux fur around the edges – it left nothing to the imagination.
Sheryl called it her doily because it seemed to be not much bigger than the doilies her grand-mere knitted for tables. Grand-mere had doilies all over her house – every surface had a doily on it and when she ran out of surfaces she forced doilies on her children and grandchildren – it was an obsession, an addiction really.
Sheryl put on her Lindy mask and opened the door. Sheryl was gone. Standing before Mr. A was a thin, raven haired, milk skinned young girl older than his daughter. Mr. A was shaking. This was his fifth visit despite the fact he protested after each of his previous four that they were the last Lindy would ever see of him.
Mr A entered quickly and slammed the door behind him, jumping at the sound and seeming embarrassed.
“No time for the romance,” said Mr. A explaining that it took him longer to get over here than he expected. Lindy smiled in a mechanical way.
Lindy said nothing as she wandered over to him. She undid his pants and they fell to his knees as she went over to the wall next to the front door and lifted the back of her “doily”. She turned and watched as Mr. A half fell, half shuffled his way over in an embarrassing dance that she would have laughed at if she knew she could get away with it.
In moments he was done leaving Lindy with almost no bruises save for the back of her left thigh where his knee had jammed her when he briefly and apologetically contorted in a sudden spasm brought on by a cramp in his own leg.
Mr. A apologized profusely while Lindy casually walked to the washroom to clean up while he pulled his pants up.
“This is the last time I come here,” said Mr. A as he handed Lindy cash. Lindy nodded, smiled and said nothing. “Really – I mean it this time, I love my wife and family. We can’t keep doing this.”
It was getting difficult to keep Lindy at the surface when all Sheryl wanted to do was slam her fist straight in Mr. A’s stupid bushy mustached mouth. Instead she just stared quietly until he fumbled his way out of the apartment and shut the door as the phone began ringing again.
The day was busier than Sheryl had wanted. She stopped answering the phone after midnight and took her earnings to a tin cracker box she kept in a space in the wall behind the sink where there was a hole that had rotted out.
She spent almost an hour showering off Lindy and the rest of the day. By 1 am she had turbaned her hair and wrapped herself in a huge terry cloth robe that Jimmy had swiped from the Hilton where he had worked in the kitchen.
Sheryl lit a cigarette and wandered over to the window with a cup of tea. This box had a card with a beautiful Monarch butterfly on it. She saved all of the cards in a drawer and pulled them out to admire once and a while.
Opening the window Sheryl leaned out to look at the stars emerging from the receding clouds. The rain had finally stopped leaving a fresh and glistening city behind. She watched the taxis driving by, the tail lights blazing in red along the road.
There were no thoughts for the day ahead just a wish that it would never come.