Are You Alienated (part nine)
She found a folded letter, and inside the letter, thin sheets of newsprint―the stuff on which her final statement from her pension fund had been printed. Minta opened the little bundle long enough to verify it was as she’d thought, the remnants of her retirement savings documented, cashed out for five thousand six hundred and twenty-four dollars. She and Quentin had been looking for a house at the time she’d lost her job.
“No problem. We’ll get your name off the loan.”
He’d been enthusiastic about her windfall…they could borrow that much less. But Minta now had no personal savings. She depended on Quentin.
Thinking of this, she thought again of BriVi. Why, she asked herself, am I overlooking the best clue I’ve been given?
“I am Brian Virgil.”
This time, alone in her living room, she said it aloud, even let herself do a voice for him. “I’m young, and I’m helping Dr. Slater with his oral history project. I collect stories…I may have learned—let’s say I have—the language spoken by the local people, here on the Gallipoli peninsula. Am I alienated? Have I been bullied, when I wanted a friend? Pushed to the margin, when I wanted to participate? Shown the door, when I wanted an assignment? Do I feel more at home here than anywhere else?
“For all we know,” she mused, becoming herself again, “Brian Virgil may be easy to find. He may have changed his name. He may have been there all along.”
“Animal is big.”
“Animal,” the second host―whose black hair was tipped in blond; whose eyes were ringed in morpho blue―cut in, “is immortal.” Cammie’s eye was attracted by the fingernail treatment―four iridescent black, one blood red―as he gestured to emphasize his next hint, “but this spring, we will be seeing animal with a new whimsy.”
Cammie looked away from the TV. Grey, these two told her, remained decisive. She had been wearing a grey sweater, as she’d sat with her counsellor, in the Office of Graduate Student Affairs. OGSA. Og sucks, that was the joke. Her counsellor was Dr. Slater’s friend. She hated, of all things she hated about this woman, the fake hair.
“You have a hair,” Brenda told her. And she pointed at Cammie’s sweater with a letter-opener…a bent out of shape letter-opener, that Cammie imagined Brenda used prying other people’s locked drawers.
She picked the hair off her sleeve. She allowed it to fall to the carpet in Brenda’s office…and Cammie had wondered, why call attention to a thing, if all you can do is make someone feel bad? Like a clean person’s hair didn’t fall out? When Cammie spoke, Brenda checked herself, ever so slightly, before she replied.
But she was free now, so the bitch didn’t matter. Cammie did not really see herself going back. She would get a job. Her mother would get used to it. While the television aired Fashion On!, Cammie watched also, on her tablet, an ‘80s comedy, Men in the Wilderness...
Are You Alienated
(2015, Stephanie Foster)