Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 6 No. 1 | Spring 1984 (Seattle) /// Issue 7 of 24 /// Master# 55 of 73

LONG SEASON sailors still in town, and the black oilcloth shades still rolled over the front windows to be dropped at night. Her mother was afraid. The blackout shades would keep them from being watched from the street. “Hush," she would say, when there was a footstep in the hall, and they would stand, transfixed, as in the game of statues, wondering if the steps would come their way. And she would say, “Don’t snap the light on and then off again. They’ll think that is a signal to come up." Evelyn knew she meant men, that men would think her mother was signalling them to come up. If she didn’t stay hidden, these men would think she was a whore because she was alone. Like rape, it was a word given to Evelyn early in life by way of warning. Evelyn runs hot water while she puts T ■ V V / IC T T T /A T TUT K ■ ■ I ■ breakfast dishes at the same time. She ■ M / I ' K I I I f ■ slides the plate and cup under the suds 1 / 1 / ■ t I / ■ into water too hot to touch, then sits for ■F M 1 1 _ S M a moment with her tea and the evening the groceries away, starting tea water and getting ready to do the paper while temperatures regulate. The tea first — there is a suspended moment RAIN while it is still too hot to drink — and then the dishwater. When it is ready, she will be done with her tea, and this cup can be washed too. And all this time she has not forgotten the white envelope in the mailbox; not for a moment has it vanished from her Drawing by Claudia Cave BY SHARON LYNN PUGH X < t the entrance to her building, Evelyn hefts JL JLher bag o f groceries for a better grip and turns to push the door with one shoulder, making a complete turn to accommodate the briefcase in her hand. As she passes the row o f mailboxes, she sees white through the holes in hers, but she doesn’t stop. She goes up the carpeted stairs, making no sound, key already in hand so she has no need to set the bag down. The door swings open with the turn o f the key and she enters, kicking the paper in with one foot and door shut behind her with the other. This habit o f economy pleases her, like doing a secret dance, and she believes she has accrued something from it over the years, small movements saved like small change. She steps out of her shoes and moves silently over the floor to set the bag down and hang her coat in the closet. Evelyn grew up on the top floor of an apartment building and learned to be noiseless as a child. “Hush,” her mother would say, raising a hand to the level of her eyes as if she were about to salute. “There are people underneath.” And Evelyn would try to become a cloud over their heads, as if there were not people up here, too. When she was angry, the worst thing she could do was to stomp her feet and scream. Then her mother would raise her hand in alarm, as if she were holding a stick, and shout, “hush!” but in a whisper, so that it was both softer and more dangerous than the ordinary word. And Evelyn would run to the bathroom, trailing her last scream, and slam the door. For the rest of the day, the silence in the apartment would have the quality of shattered glass. For Evelyn, noise has always been a form of violence. This was in the forties, after the war, with the tinyards gone from the Portland Park Blocks but the battleships and mind’s eye. She has been calculating the likelihood of its being a bill or advertisement. Three months ago it would certainly have been that, but now it is not so simple to predict her mail through the grid. Had she paused for a moment passing by, she might have seen whether her name was printed or written by hand. But if there were more than one envelope in the box, the handwritten one might be hidden, so she still might not know for sure. After she has finished the dishes, she will take the key down and see. Evelyn has lived alone for a dozen years now, but it seems longer than that to her. It seems like her whole life. Even when she yvas a child, her mother always spoke of herself as alone, so Evelyn thought that she must be alone too. Alone in an unsafe world, her mother believed, and Evelyn thinks that she was right. But unsafe for whom? When she drinks her evening tea, Evelyn often thinks of a scene from her childhood, herself sitting alone on a curb in front of a vacant lot, down the street from the apartment house where she lived. She remembers that she was out of bounds. But only a little. The near edge of the vacant lot was the border, and she was only a few feet beyond that. But her mother, leaning as far as she could out the third floor window, could not quite see her. It was for this reason Evelyn did not have permission to be this far down the street. She was seven and could do nothing without permission, as would be the case when she was seventeen, twentyseven, thirty-seven. Even when there was no one to grant permission, she would do what she was doing now, move a little outwards, unobtrusive, not much, not far enough not to hear the urgent voice when it began calling. “I didn’t mean to,” she could always say then. “I forgot.” She sat on the curb alone, watching the cloud formations in the sky, thinking they were pretty, thinking that she would always be alone like this. It was a peculiar thought for a child, though not so much for her. She had already learned the meaning of the empty street, the shadows in the small jungle of blackberry vines behind her with the hard dirt path leading to the next block. She did not have permission to walk that path, and indeed, it would be going too far. Looking up, she observed three globes in the sky, pears perhaps, already shifting into something else. She knew she would see these pears another time and did not want to forget that she had seen them now. She was also terracing a patch of dirt in the section of grass between the sidewalk and the curb that her mother called “the boulevard.” Evelyn didn’t think this was the right name, but she had never heard it called anything else. Here the boulevard had lost its grass, and she was making a round track in the dirt with a piece of flat wood, smoothing it over and over. With her finger, she drew a line around the outside of the track, which was shallowly concave, and put two tiny metal cars on it. She looked up again. There was a 28 Clinton St. Quarterly