The tears were dry by the time Sadie got inside the front door to her apartment building. She had kept her head bowed and to one side in an attempt at the tiny dreadlocks that made up her hair would cover the bruise she was sure must be getting worse. However, even if the noticed, nobody on the A train seemed to care about her face, thankfully. At least not obviously. Nobody in the city seemed to care about anything, it seemed. At least once a week, whenever she felt down, or tired, or the least little bit scared the city would bare it's teeth; the panhandlers would get more aggressive, the drunk guys in suits coming up from downtown would leer at her on the train a little harder as she went to class. She picked up the mail, a couple days worth, from her mailbox and did the slow march up the several flights of stairs. The windows in the stairwell were still open even though it had gotten colder and the pigeons seemed to have multiplied in the small canyon made by the two adjoining buildings. The huge granite stairs were worn, the window sills on the other side of the chainlink screens were thick with pigeon shit. She got up the several flights and wearily made it to her door. As usual the keys had to get wiggled in each of the various locks, but she got inside the heavy steel door.
The place was tiny and dusty and smelled like food that had recently turned. There was a grey light coming from the window that overlooked the “courtyard.” It was cool and dim, reflected by the bricks across the way. The two pigeons that presided ove her sill were there, one in the nest and one beside, and were not bothered by her coming home. She went into the tiny kitchen and fetched an ice pack from the freezer, walked back into the living room, kicking her shoes off. She fell onto the ragged couch and threw the mail onto the scratched up coffee table that attended it. She put the pack to her face and let her head fall back. She looked at the ceiling as the cold of the ice pack crept over her face like a lacework construct built out of coldness. Her left hand ran over the endention left by the dog that had died not more than two months earlier. More tears, this time rolling down her temples into her ears and into her hair. She sat there and cried and thought about the growing wetness along the sides and back of her scalp. She cried for a while more and then sat up, rubbing her eyes with her shirt, picked up the mail and went through it. Utilities threatenening cut-off as usual. There was one in a crisp white envelope mailed from Columbia university. She threw it back down on the table and groaned. Wiped her eyes some more and picked it up and opened it. It was heavy with paper that she unfolded and scanned one by one until she found the word she knew she would find: “Explusion.” Yep she chuckled; New York was simply not working out.
She got up and crossed the room once more, the pigeons watching her passage, she went into the bathroom, turned on a mix of cold and hot water to wash her face. She looked at her face, the swelling was not as bad as she thought it'd be, but her eye would nearly be closed shut by early evening. She marveled at the purples and dull reds that had risen to the surface, even some yellows and even green. It was pretty, she thought and she'd made that motherfucker work for it. She looked again at her face, her neck, her hairline. No bruises where he grabbed her by the throat. Her expression turned hard and she turned off the water, reached for the scissors and started cutting the small tight dreads from her head, letting them fall on the floor.
When she was done she had a shower. Afterward she dried off and looked at her head again. Completely bald now, she had gone through two razors cleaning it up in the shower, but there was no blood. The chocolate brown skin covering her skull shone, and she managed a grim smile.
She walked around the apartment naked eating some lentil leftover soup she'd found in the fridge. She ate slowly, her lips close to the paper container as she spooned it into her mouth.
Her body rippled with small tight muscles and she moved elegantly as the dancer she'd come to New York to become. If the pigeons objected to her nakedness, they didn't bring it up.
The phone rang on the small table next to the couch. She sat and answered it. It was her mother. There were more tears. Later, all she could remember was saying “Momma, I messed it all up” and her mother replying “It's alright, baby,just come on home.”