September was caramel apple sticky, all over heat, skin damp, sky dripping. One customer said her brain had melted, and Rebecca chuckled because that's what she got paid to do, but her brain had dripped out long ago, she thought. At night she dreamt that she followed the trail of grey bits, her brains marking a path along the sidewalk, past the bus stop, and into a town that did not exist. A town twisting in a cool breeze, the sun hovering near clouds and not burning through walls and trees and skin. A town where she would find Enid.
The leaves crunched under her shoes, Mary Janes with thick soles. Death in each step, dry like paper, going to bits under the weight of her. It was soothing, somehow, to kick and watch them fly, to stand on one foot and spin, grinding them into the ground. She was present. She had power. She was not drifting through the days. People ordered apple cider and toasted bagels, and she smiled and filled out college applications at break.
She stood outside of Seymour's place watching the children trick or treat, demons and angels too big for her shoulders. Laughing away.
Rebecca had overslept again, and she dressed quickly in the chilled apartment. She grabbed a breakfast bar for the walk and slipped it into the pocket of her coat. She put on a striped scarf Enid had left at her house three years ago. Somehow, it had been packed, and she had discovered after the move. It lay coiled in the bottom of a box, underneath long forgotten stuffed toys and school papers, vibrant color, soft knit, smelling faintly of vanilla and hair dye. A memory poised for attack. She wore it now as a talisman, a guard against mediocrity.
The first postcard came so near Christmas that she missed it in the rush and the bother, the onslaught of mail, junk and otherwise.
Ironic, on a veritable plethora of levels.
When she found it in a fit of cleaning two days before the new year, she almost threw it out with the ads. A postcard, the kind available in every coffee shop in every city, advertised vodka and bore only her name and address in painfully neat handwriting.
Rebecca stuck it in the frame of the mirror by the door, the image facing out, a message to be decoded.
The afternoon felt like rain, grey and misty. Rebecca came home to find the second postcard, almost lost in the grocery store circular. Her name and address were written in a loopy, skeletal hand, fragile letters like an old woman and lace and old parchment that crumbles between your fingers. The postmark was blurred. She turned the card over to the reproduction of the movie poster for a film that had been in the theaters six months ago. When she looked closer she noticed that the stars had received Sharpie makeovers.
The card joined the vodka ad on the mirror.
Her acceptance letter sat on the kitchen table for two weeks before she got up the courage to open it. Instead she turned it over and over in her hands, corners softening from being handled, and attempted to guess what she wanted it to say.
Enid had said that they were not going to college. Enid had made the decision. Rebecca had carried it through, but they had been Enid's words. Enid was gone.
She sliced the envelope open with a pair of scissors, and drew out the sheet of letterhead.
Dear Ms. Doppelmeyer, We are pleased to inform you
On the fifth of July, a postcard arrived advertising sneakers. New text, cut from a magazine and pasted on ransom letter style proclaimed these sneakers to be the choice of sweatshop workers everywhere. The address was printed as though by a child, careful, yet shaky letters, pressing through the card. Rebecca ran her fingertips along the other side, catching on the edges of the letters, both glued and handwritten.
She wondered if Enid felt her handwriting was too personal to send across the miles. If her handwriting would betray her.
Confetti filled the gutters, flashes of color in the mud.
Cards kept coming. They were always the free cards, always bearing only Rebecca's name and address, and never with the same handwriting. For the month of August, they came with foreign stamps, but still advertising American films, breath mints, and automobiles.
Rebecca walked on the shady side of the street, past everything that looked like everything else, and tried not to think about being here alone. On Saturdays she took a detour past Seymour's. Never to talk, never to ask, just to see if he was still there, selling records in the garage.
It wouldn't do for everyone to disappear.
Another sticky day, another hot September, and she came home from her first day of classes to find the mailbox empty. It's as though Enid knew.
Rebecca tore the postcards down from the mirror, and spread them on the kitchen table. She slid them around on the green Formica, as if in a game of Go Fish. The various scripts swam before her eyes. So many people that Enid had talked to, so many hands she might have touched, so many that were not Rebecca. Were they strangers? Friends? Lovers?
Rebecca pushed the cards, falling like snow to the floor.
Rebecca knew that if she were in a movie the cards would contain a secret code. If she laid them together just so she would find the message and she would find Enid. Enid unreadable.
Before, they had been too close to see, let alone to read. They needed space to look, to read, to write. To read themselves without the context of the other.
Rebecca gathered up the cards, tied them, and set them in her top dresser drawer. She stood in front of the now empty mirror, tapping her index finger against her lower lip.
And she read.