While at school she would draw her shoulders and head in tight to her chest and try to avoid the teacher's and her classmates' glances. She was shy to an extreme; even benevolent students finding it imposing to speak to her. Yet when the subject revolved around the names of places either near or far she would raise a wagging hand into the air. She would know the name of the place but never anything about it and this would often lead to confusion and embarrassment. She would excitedly link one place name to another, but miss the point altogether. "What is an example of a primary industry in the Maritime region?" the teacher would question. "Grand Manan!" she would blurt. Her shoulders and head retreating back to her chest to fend off the laughter and jeers.
The memory of those school days rudely jolted her back to her present. She closed the atlas with a quick yet delicate snap and returned it to its place on the shelf. Time had slipped by quickly. It was nearing suppertime. She would have to hurry to catch the married couples that stopped in at bars for quick drinks before the theatre. These would be some of her more pleasant hours before the arrival of the college kids and their drunken cavorting. She hopped in the shower and washed all remnants of last night's sleep off her body. She let the water crash sharply into her face. It stung her cheeks like pellets of seawater thrown by the whipping wind onto a boat or over a cliff. Getting out of the shower she wrapped herself in her housecoat and dried her hair vigorsouly with a coarse and thin towel.
She stopped for a moment to stare in the mirror. She had sustainable beauty, she thought. Sustainable, as long as she provided it with a lot of support. Her shoulder length blonde hair lay flat and stringy against her head. She noticed her roots were beginning to show through again. Her skin, in the face of the bathroom's vanity looked pale and slightly loose, she thought. Her body, she knew, was adequate, but it needed packaging. Fancy wrap. When she would go downtown in the daytime, which was usually to pay her bills or to go shopping, she always wore long pants and a raincoat, even in the heat of summer. Her head down and shoulders in, she would glance at the snapping heels and aggressive legs of the businesswomen and end up frantic for home. But tonight would be fine. She would be sustained with her cosmetics and her dress. Her work clothes. Her fortifications.
She went into her dresser and sat in front of another mirror. As she went through the routine of applying foundation, eyeliner, blush, lipstick and hairspray she mumbled quietly. Penticton, Summerland, Hope, Golden Ears, Penticton, Summerland, Hope, Golden Ears... She took her black Friday-night dress out of the closet and put it on. It was short and snug with thin straps that would sometimes fall off her shoulders. Sumatra, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Paloh, Kuching, Sarawak, Sumatra, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Paloh, Kuching, Sarawak... She went over to her dresser and picked up the perfume bottle and gave herself three shots as she always did. One at the nape of neck and one on each wrist. Canberra, Wollongong, Broken Hill, Wagga-Wagga, Canberra, Wollongong, Broken Hill, Wagga-Wagga... She took one last look in the mirror then called a cab before grabbing the roses out of the fridge and heading downstairs.
Timothy Lea is feeling much better now.