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کتاب: هیچی نیس، آرام باش / فصل 14

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Blue

PAUL AND I GOT MARRIED tipi way. Some people call it the Native American Church. Or peyote way. We call peyote medicine because it is. I still mostly believe that in the same way I believe most anything can be medicine. Paul’s dad married us in a tipi ceremony two years ago. In front of that fireplace. That’s when he gave me my name. I was adopted by white people. I needed an Indian name. In Cheyenne it’s Otá’tavo’ome, but I don’t know how to say it right. It means: the Blue Vapor of Life. Paul’s dad started calling me Blue for short, and it stuck. Up until then I’d been Crystal.

Almost all I know about my birth mom is that her name is Jacquie Red Feather. My adoptive mom told me on my eighteenth birthday what my birth mom’s name is and that she’s Cheyenne. I knew I wasn’t white. But not all the way. Because while my hair is dark and my skin is brown, when I look in the mirror I see myself from the inside out. And inside I feel as white as the long white pill-shaped throw pillow my mom always made me keep on my bed even though I never used it. I grew up in Moraga, which is a suburb just on the other side of the Oakland hills—which makes me even more Oakland hills than the Oakland hills kids. So I grew up with money, a pool in the backyard, an overbearing mother, an absent father. I brought home outdated racist insults from school like it was the 1950s. All Mexican slurs, of course, since people where I grew up don’t know Natives still exist. That’s how much those Oakland hills separate us from Oakland. Those hills bend time.

I didn’t do anything about what my mom told me on my eighteenth birthday right away. I sat on it for years. I kept on feeling white while being treated like any other brown person wherever I went.

I got a job in Oakland at the Indian Center and that helped me to feel more like I belonged somewhere. Then one day I was looking on Craigslist and saw that my tribe in Oklahoma was hiring a youth-services coordinator. That’s what I was doing in Oakland, so I applied not really thinking I would get it. But I got it and moved out to Oklahoma a few months later. Paul was my boss then. We moved in together just a month after I got there. Super unhealthy from the get-go. But part of why it went so fast is because of ceremony. Because of that medicine.

We sat up every weekend, sometimes it was just me, Paul, and his dad if no one else showed up. Paul took care of the fire and I brought in water for Paul’s dad. You don’t know the medicine unless you know the medicine. We prayed for the whole world to get better and felt it could every morning when we came out of the tipi. The world just spins, of course. But it all made perfect sense for a while. In there. I could evaporate and drift up and out through the crisscrossed tipi poles with the smoke and prayers. I could be gone and all the way there at once. But after Paul’s dad died, everything I’d been praying about all that time got turned upside down and emptied on top of me in the form of Paul’s fists.

After the first time, and the second, after I stopped counting, I stayed and kept staying. I slept in the same bed with him, got up for work every morning like it was nothing. I’d been gone since that first time he laid hands on me.

I applied for a job back where I used to work in Oakland. It was the position of events coordinator for the powwow. I had no experience in coordinating events outside of the annual youth summer camps. But they knew me there, so I got the job.

I watch my shadow grow long then flatten on the highway as a car flies by without slowing or seeming to notice me. Not that I want slowing or notice. I kick a rock and hear it ding against a can or some hollow thing in the grass. I pick up my pace and as I do a hot gust of air and the smell of gas blow by with the passing of a big truck.

This morning when Paul said he needed the car all day I decided to take it as a sign. I told him I’d get a ride home with Geraldine. She’s a substance abuse counselor where I work. When I walked out the door, I knew everything I left in that house I’d be leaving for good. Most of it was easy to leave. But my medicine box, the one his dad had made for me, my fan, my gourd, my cedar bag, my shawl—these I’ll have to learn to leave over time.

I didn’t see Geraldine all day and not after work either. But I’d made my decision. I headed to the highway with nothing on me but my phone and a box cutter I took from the front desk before I left.

The plan is to get to OKC. To the Greyhound station. The job doesn’t start for a month. I just need to make it back to Oakland.

A car slows then stops ahead of me. I see red brake lights bleed through my vision of the night. I turn around in a panic, then hear Geraldine, so turn to see her old-ass beige Cadillac her grandma gave her for graduating from high school.

When I get in the car Geraldine gives me a look like: What the fu@k? Her brother Hector is laid out in the backseat, passed out.

“He okay?” I say.

“Blue,” she says, scolding me with my name. Geraldine’s last name is Brown. Names that are colors is what we have in common.

“What? Where we going?” I say to her.

“He drank too much,” she says. “And he’s on pain meds. I don’t want him to throw up and die in his sleep on our living-room floor, so he’s riding with us.”

“Us?”

“Why didn’t you just ask me for a ride? You told Paul—”

“He called you?” I say.

“Yeah. I was already home. I had to leave early for this fu@ker,” Geraldine says, pointing with her thumb to the backseat. “I told Paul you had to stay late with a youth waiting for an auntie to show up, but that we were leaving soon.”“Thank you,” I say.

“So you’re going?” she says.

“Yeah,” I say.

“Back to Oakland?”

“Yeah.”

“OKC Greyhound?”

“Yeah.”

“Well sh@t,” Geraldine says.

“I know,” I say. And then our saying this makes a silence we drive in for a while.

I see what I think is a human skeleton leaned against a barbed-wire wood-pole fence.

“Did you see that?” I say.

“What?”

“I don’t know.”

“People think they see stuff out here all the time,” Geraldine says. “You know that part of the highway you were walking? Up north a ways, just past Weatherford, there’s a town there called Dead Women Crossing.”“Why’s it called that?”

“Some crazy white lady killed and beheaded this other white lady and sometimes teenagers go over to where it happened. The woman who got killed had her fourteen-month-old baby with her when she got killed. The baby made it out okay. They say you can hear that woman calling out for her baby at night.”“Yeah, right,” I say.

“Ghosts aren’t what you have to worry about out here,” Geraldine says.

“I brought a box cutter from work,” I say to Geraldine, and pull it out of my jacket pocket and slide the plastic clip up to show her the blade—like she doesn’t know what a box cutter is.

“This is where they get us,” Geraldine says.

“Safer out here than at home,” I say.

“You could do worse than Paul.”

“I should go back then?”

“Do you know how many Indian women go missing every year?” Geraldine says.

“Do you?” I say.

“No, but I heard a high number once and the real number’s probably even higher.”

“I saw something too, someone posted about women up in Canada.”

“It’s not just Canada, it’s all over. There’s a secret war on women going on in the world. Secret even to us. Secret even though we know it,” Geraldine says. She rolls down her window and lights a smoke. I light one too.

“Every single place we get stuck out on the road,” she says. “They take us, then leave us out here, leave us to dim to bone, then get all the way forgotten.” She flicks her cigarette out the window. She only likes a cigarette for the first few drags.

“I always think of the men who do that kinda thing like, I know they’re out there somewhere—”

“And Paul,” she says.

“You know what he’s going through. He’s not who we’re talking about.”

“You’re not wrong. But the difference between the men doing it and your average violent drunk is not as big as you think. Then you’ve got the sick pigs in high places who pay for our bodies on the black market with Bitcoin, someone way up at the top who gets off on listening to the recorded screams of women like us being ripped apart, knocked against the cement floors in hidden rooms—”“Jesus,” I say.

“What? You don’t think it’s real? The people who run this sh@t are real-life monsters. The people you never see. What they want is more and more, and when that isn’t enough, they want what can’t be gotten easily, the recorded screams of dying Indian women, maybe even a taxidermied torso, a collection of Indian women’s heads, there’s probably some floating in tanks with blue lights behind them in a secret office on the top floor of an office building in midtown Manhattan.”“You’ve given this some thought,” I say.

“I meet with a lotta women,” she says. “Trapped by violence. They have kids to think about. They can’t just leave, with the kids, no money, no relatives. I have to talk to these women about options. I have to talk them into going to shelters. I have to hear about when the men accidentally go too far. So no, I’m not telling you that you should go back. I’m taking you to the bus station. But I’m saying you shouldn’t be out here on the side of the highway at night. I’m saying you should have texted me, asked me for a ride.”“I’m sorry,” I say. “I thought I’d see you after work.”

I feel tired and a little annoyed. I always get this way after a cigarette. I don’t know why I smoke them. I yawn a big yawn, then lean my head against the window.

I wake up to the blink-blur of a struggle. Hector has his arms around Geraldine—he’s reaching for the wheel. We’re swerving, no longer on the highway. We’re on Reno Avenue just across the bridge over the Oklahoma River, not far from the Greyhound station. Geraldine’s trying to get Hector off of her. I slap Hector on his head over and over with both hands to try to stop him. He grunts like he doesn’t know where he is or what he’s doing. Or like he’s woken up from a bad dream. Or like he’s still having it. We swerve hard left then harder right and go over the curb, over some grass, and then into the Motel 6 parking lot, right into the front of a truck parked there. The glove compartment comes in and crushes my knees. My hands fly toward the windshield. The seat belt pulls, then cuts into me. We stop and my vision blurs. The world spins a little. I look over and see that Geraldine’s face is a bloody mess. Her airbag is out and it looks like it might have broken her nose. I hear the back door open and see Hector fall out of the car, then get up and stumble away. I turn my phone on to call an ambulance, and as soon as I do I see that Paul’s calling again. I see his name. His picture. He’s in front of his computer at work wearing that I’m-a-hella-hard-Indian-dude look, with his chin lifted. I pick up because I’m this close to the Greyhound. He can’t do anything to me now.

“What, what the fu@k do you want? We just got in a wreck,” I say.

“Where you at?” he says.

“I can’t talk. I’m calling an ambulance,” I say.

“What are you doing in OKC?” he says, and my stomach drops. Geraldine looks at me and mouths: Hang up.

“I don’t know how you know that, but I’m hanging up now,” I say.

“I’m almost there,” Paul says.

I hang up. “Did you fu@king tell him where we are?”

“No, I did not fu@king tell him where we are,” Geraldine says, and wipes her nose with her shirt.

“Then how the fu@k does he know we’re here?” I say more to myself than to her.

“sh@t.”

“What?”

“Hector must have texted him. Hector’s all fu@ked up right now. I gotta go after him.”

“What about your car? Are you okay?”

“I’ll be fine. Get to the bus station. Hide in the bathroom until the bus is ready to leave.”

“What are you gonna do?”

“Find my brother. Convince him to not keep doing whatever the fu@k it is he thinks he’s doing.”

“How long has he been back?”

“Only a month,” she says. “And he gets deployed again next month.”

“I didn’t even think we were still over there.” I side-hug her.

“Go,” she says. I don’t let go.

“Go,” she says, and pushes me away. My knees are stiff and sore, but I run.

The Greyhound sign stretches up like a beacon. But the lights are out. Is it too late? What time is it? I look at my phone. It’s only nine. I’m okay. I look back and see Geraldine’s car where we left it. No cops yet. I could call and wait for the police, tell them what happened, tell them about Paul.

The station is empty. I go straight into the bathroom. On my feet, in a crouch, on top of the toilet in one of the stalls, I try to order my ticket on my phone. But he calls. I can’t order because his calls keep interrupting me. I see a text at the top of my screen and try to ignore it but can’t.

You here? the text says. I know he means the bus station. He must have seen Geraldine’s car, seen how close the Greyhound station was.

We’re at a bar around the corner from where we crashed, I text.

BULLsh@t, he texts back. Then he calls. I press the top button of my phone in. He’s probably here. Walking through the bus station. He’s looking for the light of my phone. Listening for its vibration. He won’t come into the bathroom. I turn the vibrate on my phone off. I hear the door to the bathroom open. My heart is too big and fast to hold in my chest. I take a deep breath as quiet and slow as I can. Still standing on the toilet seat I duck my head down to see who came in. I see women’s shoes. It’s an old woman. Big, beige, wide, Velcroed shoes step into the stall next to mine. Paul calls again. I press the top button again. I see a text come in.

C’mon baby. Come out. Where are you going? the text says. My legs are tired. My knees throb from the crash. I get down from the toilet. I pee and try to think of a text that might lead him away from here.

I told you we’re down the street. Come down. We’ll have a drink. We’ll talk through this, okay? I text him. The door to the bathroom opens again. I drop my head down again. fu@k. His shoes. I get back up on the toilet.

“Blue?” His voice booms in the stall.

“This is the women’s room, sir,” the woman in the stall next to me says. “There’s no one in here but me.” And I know she must have heard me in the next stall when I peed.

“Sorry,” Paul says.

There’s still too much time before the bus gets here. He’ll wait for the lady to leave and come back in. I hear the door open then close again.

“Please,” I whisper to the woman, “he’s after me.” And I don’t know what I’m asking her to do.

“What time’s your bus leaving, darling?” the woman says.

“Thirty minutes,” I say.

“Don’t worry. When you get to my age, you can get away with that much time in here. I’ll stay with you,” she says, and I start to cry. Not loud, not a sob, but I know she can hear me. The snot comes and I sniff in hard so it won’t keep coming.

“Thank you,” I say.

“This kind of man. They’re getting worse.”

“I’m gonna have to run out, I think. Run to the bus.”

“I carry mace. I been attacked, robbed more than once.”

“I’m going to Oakland,” I say. And I realize just then that we’re no longer whispering. I wonder if he’s at the door. My phone isn’t ringing anymore.

“I’ll walk over with you,” she says.

I order the ticket on my phone.

We walk out of the bathroom together. The station is empty. The woman is brown, ethnically ambiguous, and older than I thought even from the shoes. She has those deep wrinkles on her face that seem carved, wooden. She gestures for us to lock arms as we walk.

I climb the steps into the bus, the old woman behind me. I show my ticket to the driver on my phone, then turn it off. I walk to the back and slink way down in my seat, take in a deep breath then let it out, and wait for the bus to start moving.

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