Burnt

Red HeartShe was speaking very loudly on the bus, inviting everyone to listen in. You could tell she had one too many drinks based on how the balanced on her toes while grasping the supporting hand strap.

–And then. And then. You will never believe what she told me. It was amazing. No, well. Not really amazing. It was horrifying. It was shocking. It was awful. It was amazing she didn’t think it was that way.

She paused listening into the receiver of her phone.

–No really. She was going on about how she couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t figure out how to get ahead. Said it wasn’t easy. And I told her…. mmmm, yeah. I know. Exactly! I told her of course it wasn’t easy. What was she expecting? Yes. Yes! Well. I guess she must trust me more than I realized, because you know what she said after that? Well, no. No, Mom. I know you like to think I’m trustworthy, but this is different. Oh trust me. It’s different. Mom. Mom. Let me tell you. Please?

The woman sighed. She was in her mid twenties, and fit into Washington, D.C. with style. Not a hair was out of place. Her black pencil dress came to just the right length, coral blazer giving a touch of power to offset the somber of the black. Leather pumps brought her to a height which caused people to react in respect to her presence when she entered a room. She adjusted her winter coat in the crook of her arm, as she listened to her mother.

She must be from a northern state, I thought to myself, looking over the edge of my book at her. Only someone from the north would think that 45 degrees was warm enough to only need a blazer.

–Mom. Seriously. She told me that at the last place she worked, that she slept with her boss. She said she did it to get ahead. Yes! Yes! Do you think I could joke about something like that? What?! No. No! I will not repeat it. I just needed to vocalize to have it set in, you know? What do you mean why? Well. Apparently she wanted more, and thought it was the best way to get it. Then something happened where her boss was fired. But she didn’t say what caused it. I know. I know. Mmmmm. Yes. It could be anything. I know.

She paused again listening. The whole bus sat in silence listening with her. Even new passengers looked at her, wondering why everyone else was so interested.

–Yeah. Where did she work? Oh. Um. Pier One Imports, I think. What?

She laughed. It was loud and too jovial for the story she was telling.

–Yes Mom, I think she seriously wanted to get promoted from candles to curtains. What? What do you mean how do I feel about it? I don’t really know. I mean. I thought that this was stuff of books and soap operas. I didn’t think this was something people would do. Hell. I didn’t think that this was something that even if people tried; it would work. I don’t know. I don’t know what I am going to do. Mmmm. Really? Well. Mom. It’s a small office. I can’t avoid. Ugh. No. I cannot avoid her. It’s okay. It’s good she told me. Now I know how dangerous she is. Nothing is off limits for her. Anything from lying and cheating to sabotage. Yes, especially sabotage. No. I am not being dramatic. Anything is acceptable to her. Morality be damned. No. She not religious. Well. Ugh. Yes. Okay then. Ethics be damned. Better? Yes. Well, I try mother. Just for you. Mmm. Yes. Well. Um.

The woman looked around the bus; looking back at all the people looking at her. She went a little pale, and stood a little taller, resolved to the awkward position she felt she was in.

–Mom. It’s almost my stop. I gotta go. Yes. I love you. I love you, too. Okay. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, ‘Kay? Bye.

She hung up the phone and slipped it into her blazer pocket. She looked out the window of the bus trying to ignore all the people still looking at her. Shifting uncomfortably in everyone’s gaze she looked down, and in doing so caught the eye of another woman.

This woman, too, knew the ways of Washington, D.C. Her dress was impeccable. Her silver hair pulled back into an elegant knot. Diamonds hung on her ears and her navy wool coat made her eyes turn more blue than black in the light. Her lips were pressed to a line, in disapproval.

–I did not burn my bra for women who abuse their capacities by relying on sex.

The words came out like venom. Meant to sting and shame. The younger woman didn’t flinch. In fact, any indication she’d been drinking left her. Her shoulders straightened, as she looked down her nose at her elder seated before her. Her jaw went rigid with conviction as she said resolutely.

–No. You burnt it for woman like me, who know how to forge ahead.

The elder woman smiled a little at the bold and brassy response. Her eyes flickered in approval of the young woman as the bus started slowing to a stop.

–Remember girl. ‘There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.’

The elder got up and started walking off of the bus. The younger woman turned watching her leave and called out.

–Madeline Albright, 2006.

The woman stopped and looked back over her shoulder at the young woman. She smiled, nodded her head, then stepped off of the bus into the night.  As the door shut behind her, the young woman turned ahead. She looked looked straight out onto the oncoming road, eyes ablaze with fire.

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