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Joni huddles against the bus heater and tries her boss’s number one last time.
“Matt, I’m not sure if you’re getting these, but it’s Joni. Again. Um, listen. I’m on the bus. I’m nearly downtown. But something happened. This weekend. I don’t know if I can come in. But I’m trying. I’m almost there.”
The dark grey of February, the mounds of snow all scraped through with dirt and mud slide past the windows. The day is so dark she can barely make out where the dirty snowbanks end and the dirty streets begin.
Joni’s stop comes and she leans into the heater. The next stop comes and she slithers off the bus and stands shivering on the sidewalk.
Her ridiculous ringtone comes in a muffled cry of do-wop do-wop and it isn’t funny at all and she scrambles through her pockets to grab the damn thing and shut it up.
“Joni? It’s Matt. What the hell is going on? Where are you?”
“Matt. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. I just. I. Someone. It was. I don’t know if I can do it.”
“Are you OK?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I mean. Um.”
“Joni, are you close by?”
“I’m a few blocks away.” Joni squints through the grey afternoon toward the discrete colonial building by the harbour, red brick the rusty colour of menstrual blood.
“Why don’t you come in and tell me what this is about.”
Joni wraps her scarf tighter around her throat and fumbles with a cigarette. The lighter flicks nothing except sparks and her fingers are stiffening up, so she spits the thing into the gutter and buries her hands in her pockets.
A few steps later her hands are shaking in her pockets so Joni rifles in the purse for another cigarette. Ducks into a doorway and flicks the lighter again. Sparks shower around her.
At every side street her head whips around like he’ll be there like he’ll be there like he’ll be there and what the fuck. What the fuck. How does this happen.
Matt in the private dining room, sitting her down. Tell me what the hell is going on. Unsure whether to be stern or concerned. Joni looks up at him and Matt has only been the manager at the restaurant for a few weeks, before that he was just a server like her. She always liked Matt, he’s a good guy and all he really wants to do is be an actor and she just knows he’s a good one, something in the way he carries himself, and deep down he doesn’t give a hoot about mise en place and really she respects him for that.
Mise en place. Joni is supposed to be taking the hand towels from the dryer by now, rolling them into delicate tiny logs in the bathrooms. She likes this part of the day, before the other servers come in. She’ll turn on the Rolling Stones while she rolls. Sneak out the side door for cigarettes.
But now Matt is staring at her, waiting for her to speak and if she tells him what happened now she’ll have to say it out loud and then it will take up space in reality. On the other side of consciousness. Outside of her flesh.
“Someone. Someone on staff. Something happened this weekend. After work.”