Yet I still had failed to use a tampon like a big girl. The tampons had gone into the trash. They’d managed to soak up what was left of my pride. A few days after I’d been working in my first factory—we made wooden shipping crates—I got a splinter in my finger. I worked with it for the rest of the day but by the time I got home it stung and whelped in anger. So that night, under the light of the moon flowing through my barred window, I quickly got over my fear of surgery and blood, completely by necessity. Many girly squeals and winces later, I was practically a suture expert. But the smells of those around me and the environment I was forced to work in—I just couldn’t take it. One woman, who somehow routinely stood beside me in the factory line, smelled particularly ripe and while the camera was turned and the turds in uniforms weren’t looking, I sprayed in her general direction with a stray can of WD-40. I burrowed a smile down into my white shirt—WD-40 never smelled so good. Still wrapped in my cocoon of reminiscence, I heard footsteps coming down the hall just as I’d finished the last words to the song. The other tenants were so quiet, I could hear a pin drop. I flipped the comb in my hand, wielding the sharpened end, instead of the hygienic end and darted behind my shell of a refrigerator. The footsteps continued, the sounds indicating the carrier of feet grew closer and closer. A rattle on the door sent my heart into frantic palpitations followed by a complete seizure of beats. This was no toy soldier. They came in packs and never that late. The steps outside that night were heavier. Somehow they felt more determined though to most they would be nearly noiseless. I sidestepped back into place behind the fridge as the owner of the footsteps entered. A male voice, scratchy and raspy claimed he was with the government. I may have been sheltered as a child but I’d never acquired a taste for bullshit. And he reeked of it. Then he confessed, though I could tell by the pieced together, almost quilted clothes he wore, that he was no government agent. His hair was the color of beach sand and pulled back in a ponytail, fastened with what looked like suede twine, the kind people used to make those salvation bracelets at summer Christian camp. He squinted as he explained that his job was to search for people like me. His light brown irises looked directly into mine, signaling a teller of the truth. He resembled a lost boy, maybe stranded on an island. He said he was there to take me away. Anything has to be better than this.
I sent him to the next apartment, determined to make a break for it. I would need a carrier for the tracking device burrowed in my skin if I had any chance to get away. Over the years I’d contemplated every way I could to turn the damned thing off. I’d tried to drown it, burn it and even purposefully gotten my arm caught in one of the machines—all to no avail. I allowed myself one deep breath before I carved into my own arm, around and underneath the triangle metal tracker they’d embedded in my arm so long ago. It tracked me everywhere, but not everyone had one. Sooner than later, Lawson, that was his name, chauffeured in Mildred, and I began to give her a little taste of my luck. Desperate and wondering if that chance was my only chance at freedom, the decision was made to throw poor, unassuming Mildred under the proverbial bus. I didn’t know this guy. I didn’t really know where he was from or what he would do to me. But even death would provide me prayed for relief from my subpar existence. Some scavenged duct tape did the trick, and now my fate was temporarily connected to Mildred’s leg.
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