You Are Anita Greely
By Allegra Frazier
Your name is emblazoned, braille like, on your credit cards. It shimmers on your state ID, flakes from your outdated student card. These cards in your wallet, along with the rest of your things – keys, phone, cash, coke, chap stick, train pass – are being relieved from you by a man who has interrupted your walk to the train by taking your hair into his fist, who has yanked your head back to widen the space between your chin and shoulder, from which he pulls the strap of your second-hand leather purse. The purse flies into the air like a tether ball on its strap as you fly, pitched by the roots of your hair, down to the sidewalk.
A leap over your body propels the man into a run. From the pavement, your scalp on fire, your palms scraped, you watch him sprint away through the yellow cones of streetlamps. He is tall, thin. His thinness stuns you, considering the strength with which he threw you down. He may have a baseball cap on. You can’t determine. He may be turning right, at the next corner, disappearing into the dark. You can’t determine. It all stuns you. You blink. You push yourself into a seated position. You look at your palms. White skin flakes away from the meat below your thumbs. You look at your tights, ripped from right hip bone to right knee, your leg within the run scraped, beads of blood gathering, naked wet skin exposed. You look out at the street. No one approaches. Nothing moves. Not a flutter, except your eyelids. Open, closed. Open, closed. It all stuns you.
The train station is two blocks away, but your pass has been stolen. A cab will go by eventually, but you have no money. You decide to walk toward the station, hoping a plan will materialize before you get there.
You walk, your right leg stiff. Your neck will hurt soon. You’ve been in accidents: car, bike. You’ve been hit before. You know how this goes, how the soreness spreads and cripples, makes it so you can’t move. You know you are turning to stone.
A solution does not come by the time you reach the mouth of the train station. The light in the stairwell below you is deep and complete. A sea. The scrape on your thigh glitters. This is an unmanned station. No agent to listen to your sob story, to let you in without fare.
You see a payphone, hung like a bird cage next to green railing of the descending stairs. You pick up the receiver. You do not expect it to work, but you hear a dial tone. It works, but so what? What are you supposed to do with it? You don’t want to call 911. You don’t want to explain where you were, why you’re dressed this way. Anyway, you don’t need to hear from the police how unlikely it is you’ll get the bag back. You know you won’t get it back. You just want to get home. What other number, if any, do you know by heart?
You dial collect, you give the operator the only number you can recall: your ex. You decide you can probably call in one emergency favor, no matter how angry he might still be at you. Or disappointed, or however he wants to phrase it. You can call this one time. You can say, Okay, you’re right, I need help. Your thoughts are so consumed by the self depreciation you’ll need to deploy in order to secure his help, you do not wonder how helpful he can even be. You don’t think of what you’ll direct him to do. You don’t realize there is nothing he could do, even if he wanted to.
The operator comes back on the line, tells you he does not accept the charges. Not that there was no answer. That he does not accept the charges.
“It’s an emergency,” you say. “Ask him again.”
“Thank you for choosing Collect with AT&T,” she says, and you realize, with swift and painful clarity, that you’re pleading with a recording. You’re an idiot, and almost everything occurring in this moment is a direct result of your idiocy. Humiliation floods you, heats you, melts you away from becoming stone. Instead, you are an animal. An animal plagued by a constantly inadequate set of instincts. You are vicious.
“Fuck you both,” you scream at the recording, “just as soon you’re done fucking each other.” You slam the phone down. Several times. It does not hang straight in its cradle: you have broken it. A few people, emerging from the train station, pass you while you continue shouting accusations and threats into the metal box surrounding the payphone. The words ricochet satisfyingly around your head: you good for nothing cock sucking son of a bitch I’ll fucking kill you. No one asks what happened to your leg, to you. Who sucked what cock. Who you’ll kill. In seconds, the street is just as empty as it was before, and you as are silent. There is no one else for you to call.
Later you will be reminded of another number you know and could have called, of course: your own, your old home number, the number you have saved in the stolen cell phone as MomDad. Mom and Dad, distant but orienting. Later still, when you get a new phone, you will enter your parents separately and by their first names only, to protect them.
As you yell into the cage of the phone, a young woman who is not Anita Greely is being given your driver’s license by the boy who took it from you, who promised her he’d get her a fake ID, who decided to do so by stealing the purse of a woman who looked enough like her, who looked like an older version of her.
The girl takes your driver’s license, then your phone. “Oh my god a flip phone,” she says, flipping it open. Clapping it closed. “What year is this girl even living in?”
“Yeah, but she looks exactly like you,” the boy says. “Plus: this.” He shows her the tiny packet of your cocaine before putting it into his own pocket.
The girl, uninterested in the coke, opens the phone again and scrolls through your address book. “Jesus, you have to hit the button to pass each name,” she says, slumping, pretending the effort is exhausting her. She clicks through the K’s, the L’s, all the numbers you can’t remember now. She lands on MomDad. The opportunity for a prank opens before her. Her body rises from the slump, becomes erect and eager. She hits the green phone icon with her thumb nail.
As you finally decide you have no option but jumping the turnstile, no option but to hope for mercy if caught doing so, the girl puts the phone to her ear, her expression swelling with gleeful cruelty. As she listens to it ring, you realize you’re too sore to jump over the bars, the way you see teenage boys do, so you get on your hands and knees and crawl beneath them. As you stand and wipe your palms on your coat, your mother, in an earlier time zone, sees your name on her caller ID. She says, “Hi Hon,” and the young woman to whom she speaks, equipped with her new ID, new name and address, new parents, Mr.Mrs.Greely, screeches, “Oh my god help me, Mom, it’s Anita, please help me,” before hanging up, leaving your mother helpless and horrified. Leaving her screaming for you, into the dead phone.
The girl hangs up and laughs. Her eyes are sealed shut so tight with her joy that she does not notice that her boyfriend is stunned. That he is witnessing something he has never seen in her, and that his expression is disapproving. She does not notice that he thinks of such a prank as outside of his ethical code, a code that permits theft but not cruelty without profit, not aggression for the sake of itself. Eyes closed, she does not see that his opinion of her is beginning its irrevocable decline.
As you shuffle toward a bench in the bright cave of the station, as your baffled mother stands in her kitchen dialing a 911 line thousands of miles away from you, Anita Greely pitches your phone over a railing, into the river. And as Anita Greely and her boyfriend walk away – he wondering how he’ll tell her she was out of line, she tucking your driver’s license into her own wallet – you sit and feel your soreness. In spite of your brief episode as animal – the blood on your leg, the parents who fear for you, the men your behavior has stunned – you are in fact turning into stone. You are stiffening, you are solidifying, you are hardening into me.
Allegra Frazier’s work has appeared in Story Magazine, Carrier Pigeon, theNewerYork, and elsewhere. She is the winner of Bayou Magazine’s 2013 Flash Fiction contest. She is from Tucson, Arizona and can be visited there or at allegramfrazier.com.
(Updated Jun. 2014)