Five o’ clock, and Lisa was out the door. It was home-time, and work was over. No exceptions. You could scoff and say, “work is never over!” and to you she would roll her eyes and answer, “fuck off.” She had a schedule to keep, and something important was scheduled after work.
If you studied her agenda you would see it: a blank space between five and ten; its emptiness and isolation among the pencil-ins and highlights emphasizing a pure white space; a sacred, divine, and practically mythical slice of nothing called “Free Time.”
It was free time-o’clock, and Lisa burrowed her earbuds in and disappeared beneath the stream of umbrellas bobbing toward 33rd street station.
She reminded herself: eyes forward, no eye contact. Eye contact was dangerous. She learned that when she started the job. The city, she realized, was determined to hand her something: brochures for bus tours; tickets to comedy clubs; pamphlets to ready her soul. She grouped these undesirables under one, disgusting word: flyers.
She learned that eye contact with a “carrier” assured an assault of flyers. Once its existence was acknowledged, the carrier would snap out of its swaying daze and force itself out of the periphery. It would push its flyer at her as if the flyer were a curse it was desperate to be rid of. Sometimes, carriers assailed her on sight like piranhas drawn by the exotic scent of her outsider blood.
She followed the flow of suits around the corner onto 32nd, where she was almost caught by a hand in a tattered sleeve. She saw the flyer in the other hand and dodged. She couldn’t let her guard down, not even for a second.
She turned onto 6th Avenue, the station sign at Greeley Square in sight.
Carriers lined the sidewalk waiting for wandering eyes to give them life. Filth covered their clothes. Flyers dangled from their hands. Some pawed toward passerby with loose arms. Their mouths opened and closed and oozed drool from the corners. Lisa sped by using strangers as a buffer between her and the carriers.
A carrier lunged at her and snagged a suit instead.
“Wouldyaliketo—” it said.
“No, no, please, I have a family, I’ve got to, no—”
She was about to enter the station when she saw the book sale. With the threat of flyers behind her, she wandered among the tables and picked up a cookbook. Good Mood Food. Learning some new recipes would be productive. Lisa flipped through it and discovered a folded piece of paper.
She opened it.
IF YOU CANNOT DANCE, YOU ARE NOT FREE
Join us at George & Mary’s for Discount Dance Lessons
Thursday Nights at 6!
Prompt: A woman purchases a cookbook at a charity book sale and discovers a note tucked in the pages.