Dressed Accordingly

February 3, 2008
By Michelle Belliveau, Woburn, MA

Each night at 7:00pm, I get ready for work. I pace myself as I get ready. I'm not in a rush for my failure. I put on my stockings and mini-skirt fearing that the cold might get to me, I breathe in deep. I let out a sigh, but not of relief. I slip my haulter top over my head and adjust myself in the mirror. I feel gross. I slip on my black high heels and apply my pink icing lipstick, I reach for my Marlboro's on the bathroom counter and grab my gold cross from my jewlery box. I glance over at the clock, the red numbers flashing 7:47. I grab my purse and jean jacket and head for the front door, again pacing myself, leaving behind my lipstick stained cigarette butts and any diginity I may have had. Outside these walls is where I'm not safe, but each night I manage to do it all over again. Only waking up to regret and a hangover.

I step outside and a chill rushes through my body. My heels click against the pavement. The sounds of my shame seem louder each night. As I walk by the people in a hurry, I often wonder where they're going. I stand up against the building, watching the crowd of people. There is a woman with long red hair, wearing an expensive suit and a trenchcoat, waiting for the bus. I stand there breathing in the cold night's air wondering about this woman. She reminds me of someone I used to know. She was succesful and on the right path in life. Then a little slip-up and everything was gone.

I watch the men wander the busy sidewalks, rushing home from a long day of corporate work. Stuck behind a desk all day at some fancy job then going home to the wife and kids. Most of these men I have slept with. They're bored with their lives and need a little bit of excitement and are too scared to sleep with their secretaries just yet.

I turn my head to the scent of Ralph Lauren for men, a cologne I have smelled so many times in the past. He used to wear that cologne when he came home from work and I'd smell it when he came through the door and planted a kiss on my forehead. It was the smell for a sophisticated man or a man hidding something. In this case, the man was hidding something. I didn't know his real name, he just said,

"Call me John Smith, that's all you need to know."
And he is like every other John Smith I've ever been with.

John does the same old routine, he "accidentally" drops his briefcase on the sidewalk next to me and I pretend to help him pick up the papers. As we we kneal down on the pavement he slips me a card with an address and a time written on it.

Howard Johnson, Manhattan


I glance down at my watch, 8:36. After he walks away, I wave down a cab.

I open the door to the cab, to a yelling Indian man, whos' wrinkles seem to be like the rings of a tree, determining his old age. I try to figure out what he's mumbling, when I realize he's not even talking to me. I close the door, as he peels away from the curb on fifth avenue.

"Wheeah djyoo goingg?" he says as he pauses from his cell phone conversation.

"East Houston Ave, Howard Johnson."

He continues on with his conversation to the other yelling man on the other end. I turn and look out my window up at the tall standing buildings above me.
I let my head fall against the headrest as I close my eyes. My hands start to shake as I reach for the gold cross resting on my chest. My left hand grasps hold of it and I pray that I'll be alright.
The horn beeps loudly as the breaks slam from under the cab driver's foot. He starts yelling something in Indian that I can't quite understand. He turns onto East Houston Ave as the left blinker ticks.

"Den-sebenty-two" he says as he reaches his right hand into the back of the cab.
I reach into my black pleather purse and pull eleven dollars out of the side pocket.

"Dank you" he says as I get out of the cab.
I pull out a cigarette from the white and red package, and take the lighter out of my pocket. I stare down at the cigarette and wonder why it's even in my hand. I don't smoke. I pretend to smoke, so I can pretend that I'm being someone else while I'm working. Lindsay's not working the streets, Lindsay doesn't smoke. This new girl that has taken Lindsay's place does. I light the cigarette and just hold it.

I wait by the end of the parking lot at the Howard Johnson for John Smith to show up. I stood up against the hotel, breathing in the air of the city and staring down the cigarette that is resting between two fingers in my left hand. I don't want to smoke it, I don't want to be here.

As I lift my sullen head back up, a family of four passes down on the other side of the street. I smile as I see them pass. A mother and father and two little kids, a girl and a boy. They look like a family on the back of a childhood boardgame. The mother with her short, perfect blonde hair, holding the hand of a husband with beautiful brown hair, not a single piece astray. A little girl, with adorable golden locks and a smile that would break a million hearts. A little boy, that resembles much of his father with a smile to match. They look so happy, sincerely happy. I want to have that back.

I watch the boardgame family as they stroll down East Houston Ave. I imagine that they are going out to a fancy resturant where they will finish their meals with a hot fudge sundae and smiles and laughter. Afterwards, they will go back to their beautiful, safe home, and tuck the children into their beds. Maybe read them a bedtime story to bring them right into their dreams.

A man in a business suit turns the corner, looks at me and walks into the hotel. I drop the disinegrating cigarette on the ground and use the tip of my Payless high heels to put it out. A minute later, he walks out of the main office, and heads to a room on the second floor. I wait until his door closes and start walking up the stairs to his room. I stand in front of his door, 217, I lift my right hand up to knock on the door and a shiver runs down my spine, I sigh, knock.

A shadow stands there next to the open door, the lights are off inside. I breathe out as my right hand reaches for the cross around my neck, and place my right foot in the room. My other foot follows and immediately the door closes behind me. The lights go on and make a faint buzzing sound, like my old bathroom fan. The room is colder than the October weather outside, only in here, it smells like Pine-Sol.

The lights go on, I turn and face a tall man with brown hair and green eyes, wearing a gray business suit and shiny black shoes. I look at his Rolex watch that is resting on his left wrist. I hope this won't take long.

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