*[Language warning]

Some days you know will be bad. Whether the realization comes at you slowly or you just wake up with that sudden, cold, feeling raising the hairs on the back of your neck, or the buzz at the back of your brain that nudges you over and over to pay attention, but you ignore it cause you’re too busy. I don’t remember which one it was, the slow build-up or the nagging subconscious going, Sue, heads up, today is going to suck. Doesn’t matter really, either way. It wouldn’t have changed anything.

I’ve told myself that every day since. One of these days it’s going to make me feel better, or so the experts tell me.

Time heals all wounds, one of the therapists said. But only once. I think the abrupt way I got up and left after he uttered that particular inanity made him realize it wasn’t exactly the kind of stuff that was going to work on me. Actually, nothing any of them said or did worked for me. It’s not their fault. They tend to be the touchy-feely kind. I’m the actions-speak-louder-than-words kind.

You know what would have made me feel better? A body. Not my sister’s. Her kidnapper’s. It turns out that people that see the person that hurt them or their loved ones die don’t need nearly as much therapy as people who don’t. Something about justice, I think. Something about knowing—really knowing deep in your bones, in your very soul—that they can’t ever hurt anyone again.

And don’t give me that shit about due process and a trial by jury. Just don’t. I don’t need a jury to tell me there was a crime.  I don’t need beyond a reasonable doubt. I don’t. Because I have no doubts, reasonable or any other kind. I’m living his crime every day. And you want to know why I’m here, bitching about it? It’s called survivor’s guilt.

He didn’t pick me. Maybe it was the look in my eyes, the “don’t fuck with me” resting-bitch face that saved me. We’ll never know. Why? Because he’s still out there, probably doing it again to someone else and reveling in it. Enjoying it. Getting away with it.

Smile they say. Be polite they say. Don’t judge people they say. They’re idiots. Soft, mush-brained idiots. People like him see that smile, that politeness, that innocence and they weaponize it. They use it against you. The nice girl. The non-judgmental girl. The one with the trusting smile. The one that will stop and give you the time, lend you her phone to call for a ride, let you get in her personal space because she doesn’t want to be rude or God-forbid, prejudiced.

That’s how they think it happened. They, being the other kind of experts, you know the ones, the ones that weren’t there to serve or protect, just fill out paperwork. After. Twenty-four hours they said. That’s how long she had to be missing before it was official.

Does she do drugs? Does she drink? Has she disappeared before? Does she have a history?

A history of what? Magic tricks?

Alright, alright, I know my attitude sucked from the start, but what do you expect? I was the one who spotted him following us, the one who didn’t act on the little voice in my head, because I didn’t want to ruin a perfectly good morning.

For the first time in months, Sis and I weren’t arguing. We weren’t fighting. We were getting along, even agreeing on which coffeehouse, looking forward to the aromas, to deciding which flavoring, and whether or not to go full fat with some real cream for a change. A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips, Sis would tease. She’d been late, as usual, and I hadn’t pried. I hadn’t wanted to start a fight or go “all big sis” on her and ruin it. What if I had? What would I have learned? What clue would I have gleaned?

So there we were, walking along, me glancing back, constantly vigilant. Relax, she’d said, wrinkling her nose and rolling her eyes.

At the coffeeshop, I took the gunfighter’s seat. Yeah, I know, what kind of woman takes the gunfighter’s seat? That’s the one that faces as many doors as possible and backs to a wall, in case you didn’t know. It’s part of situational awareness, in case you care, but you probably don’t because most people don’t. Only paranoid people do that kind of shit, right? And hard bitches like me.

Ever hear of condition white? That’s what most people walk around in, oblivious to their surroundings, good, happy, little victims-in-waiting. Next time you have some time to kill in line at the grocery store, take a look around and just soak in the obliviousness of your fellow man. It’ll make you wonder how the human race survived.

Relaxed alertness is what you want. It’s called condition yellow. That’s me, most of the time. It’s why I don’t smile easily and why I don’t look cute and happy and vulnerable. Sis said I didn’t just have a resting-bitch face. I had the queen-mother of all resting-bitch faces. She even made me a card. It had a crown and everything, on a pink poodle wearing a pink and black polka-dot tu-tu.

I still have it. Two years tomorrow, it’ll be. Two years since she went into the coffeeshop bathroom to look for the keys she might have dropped there. Two years since I let her go alone because I didn’t want to go “all big sis” on her, since I didn’t level up to condition orange, which is where I should’ve been that day.


Copyright 2017 by Monalisa Foster

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