She had thought her name would carry her. Up. Out. Something.
Not that she hadn’t made an effort. She had. The cello, the toe shoes, the Bauhaus decor. She had submerged herself.
She couldn’t keep up though, keep focused, keep thin. Not Claire thin. Not Claire sharp. Not without help.
She shared a room now with a girl named Dakota, in a house occupied by twenty women, all of which had to dump their purses and pee in a cup each time they came through the front door. A front door that was locked after ten thirty, so you’d better find a day job.
It was after one. Dark, but not dark enough.
She couldn’t sleep. It was too loud, the house, the road outside, the hood. It buzzed. All of it.
It was the hardest part of being clean, the noise.
Quiet. She wanted some quiet. Just for a few minutes.
Dakota slept, her breathe raking soft against her palate.
She had once thought of it as ignorance, Dakota’s peace, her ability to sleep, to shut off. She longed for it now, admired it at times.
She sat up. She put on her slippers, dark leopard prints she’d found at Goodwill. Very Dakota.
The window would let her out. Down. Something.
Two blocks from the house she found a stop sign, planted in a small triangle of grass.
She felt a curious connection to the sign. The cars, the power lines, the fluorescents, all of it, ignoring its plea.
Can’t you see? Be quiet!
She took hold of the signpost.
Stop! Stop! Stop! She shook the post and shook the post and shook.
She wasn’t there for breakfast, Claire.
The women hoped quietly against the odds, said prayers.
Dakota found the slippers, the dark leopard prints, on her way to work that morning, tucked up to the stop sign, as if it were a bedside.
She left them be. It seemed so very, Claire. The corner, the sign, the slippers. All of it.
So very Claire.