“Miss Gloomy, Miss Glum” by Sage Marsters
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        He’s got those cheeks that look like they’ve just been slapped. I’ve dressed myself in other people’s clothes: A fluffy, cotton candy-pink sweater off a mannequin in the Goodwill on Fillmore. Jeans I found in a box on the street marked Take! Take! Take! Take!—tight enough to leave their seams imprinted along the white flesh of my thighs like delicate scars. A tag is stitched to the inside of the waist, Michelle Miner printed in red letters, for a camp, maybe, or a boarding school or a hospital.
        I came here on a bus, it took three days, leaving my father chanting behind me in the ashram. I took a box of Saltines with me, a sweater, some clean underwear. My favorite bus stop was in Cincinnati, where the bathroom was warm and clean and smelled like Chinese food; I wanted to sleep on the floor, pressed to the smooth, pink tiles. I pictured my mother here, I knew she wasn’t here, but I’d always pictured her here. I’d said she was here for a long time, so I came. It was a place in my mind already, the cliffs over the ocean, my mother drinking from her teacup at a table she found on the street and painted blue. The last time I saw her she was wearing make-up, lots of purple eye shadow, and she was standing in our old kitchen, the kitchen my father built, the familiar floorboards under her feet. She said she was leaving for Mexico. Seven years ago. Seven year cycles are important. She couldn’t stop smiling. I imagine the make-up still in place, the teacup still intact, but other things changed, the heft of her body, her hair. I didn’t expect to find anything. He tells me his name is Franklin. Franklin Balanchine, not a real name, nobody’s name.
         He says he admires my hair, that he noticed it right away, like a light bulb, a spark, and that he thinks people come up to me all the time and ask me if they can take a picture of it or touch it. He says I could be famous for my hair, or at least I could make money off it. On the bus on the way out I had a dream where I found a dead chickadee tangled in it, its body clumped and sweaty against the back of my neck, its wings and beak and curled feet wrapped fiercely in my hair.
         “Do you brush it one hundred strokes a night? The recommended treatment?” he asks. “Do you take care of this hair?” He reaches forward and gives my ponytail a shake.
         “I brush it.”
         He laughs. “You brush it,” he says. He wags his head at me. “What even shampoo do you use?”
         “I don’t know,” I say, and I wonder suddenly if this is a commercial, if this is being filmed. He’s selling something, cheap haircuts, miracle conditioner.
         “You don’t know?”
         “I think it’s Suave.” It’s the first name I think of. I use my roommate Bethany’s shampoo, whatever’s there on the edge of the tub, something golden or green. I should buy my own, but I never do. The drugstore is some place in the past, and some place I can go again someday, singing with Joni Mitchell and Huey Lewis in the bright aisles, filling my little red basket with useful items—shampoo, lint brush, face mask, light blue Post-its, bleach, nothing I need now, or at least nothing I have the ability to choose and put to use. Sometimes the shampoo is missing from the tub and I just rub a bar of soap around my head instead.

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