She’s super tall—some sort of black Amazon queen. She’s already told us her name’s Shirley Creel and that she’s a big fan of online shopping, that she got all her clothes at some real hip stores. Shirley’s sporting a blazer made of pink plastic, a silver mini skirt, and black leggings. Someone told me once that a boring woman never wears fabulous clothes.
It was my mother who told me that.
Shirley mouths into her tall black microphone, “What do you want from life?” I dig my cellphone out from my purse and pretend to check my vacant mailbox. I listen only to the mumbles around me. Shirley whistles into the microphone. She says, “Hey, bitches! What the fuck do you want?”
Now, we have a couple cheers. A few hands even raise—one from the woman right next to me. She’s wearing a pink hat, sporting curly hair, and crossing her legs like she’s basic. I look to her nametag. It reads, “Jeanine.”
Shirley points her finger at Jeanine. She puts her hand down, and brings both hands to her chest. She opens her mouth real wide, as if to suggest she’s just won a new Corvette or something. Jeanine begins to stand and Shirley mouths out, “Don’t stand, bitch. I want the girl next to you.” Jeanine looks to the left and then to her right, she grabs my elbow and lifts me up. Some usher runs over and hands me a portable microphone. I take it because I’m afraid not to. Shirley stands there, jutting both legs out like she’s getting ready to do the splits. And I’m certain she probably can. She points her finger at me and says, “How do you like having a finger pointed at you?”
I shake my head confused, put the microphone to my lips, and respond, “No.”
Shirley Creel stares daggers. “Then tell me to fucking stop.”
“Fucking stop,” I mutter.
“Good.” She places a hand on her hip and asks, “So what do you want?”
“I want to get drunk right now.”
Shirley throws up her hands, laughs uproariously. She says, “Oh, girl. You got a lot to learn. See, ladies, as long as we stand here drowning ourselves in all the dreams we feel we cannot attain, we’ll remain hopeless.”
“I have cancer,” I tell her.
“Cancer, hey?” She continues smiling, even hints at more laughter.
“And how free do you feel? Or, wait… Tell me your name, miss.”
“My name is Kristen.”
“Very nice. How free do you feel, Kristen?”
“I feel like I’m probably going to die.”
Shirley nods her head up to the top of the dark auditorium. You’d think she’s pondering something, but, really, I know she’s not. She traipses back down to the microphone. “Your life been pretty perfect so far?”
“No,” I reply. “I have a dog. I have two daughters. I have a shit job at an elementary school.”
“Something to look forward to at the end of the day.”
“And why can’t that be your own spirit? Your own soul?”
I reply, “Because.”
Shirley’s got both hands on her hips now, almost head butts the microphone. She pops out, “You know why. You let us know why.”
“Because I fucking hate myself.”
She shakes her head like she’s embarrassed. “Only people who love themselves say that shit, biscuit. You tell us what’s up.”
I look down at Jeanine. She’s staring up, interested in me or something—sad for the young lady with cancer, for the one who never really figured it out. I put my lips back to the portable microphone and say, “It’s good to have validation.”
“And why ain’t you getting that from yourself?” Shirley asks.
“You don’t even know why, do you?”
I start scratching at both thighs. My hands are clammy. My heart is beating fast. I reply, “No.”
“Is it worth figuring out?”
“Probably not now.”
“So what the fuck are you gonna do about this?”
“I’m going to leave today and I’m gonna to sign up for motorcycle classes. I’m going to quit my job. I’m going to go to a male strip club and fuck some random dude later. I’m going to drink when I want to. I’m going to pour my daughter’s grape juice all over my white carpet.”
She looks at me and smiles, purses her lips. With her eyes, she lets me know that I just gave the best answer she could have ever asked for. I’ve set up the entire performance for her just now. She asks me, “And how’s that gonna make you feel?”
“Like a motherfucking pimp, bitch!”
“Alright,” she says, clapping her hands. The room erupts in applause with her. I hand the microphone back over to the usher and sit my bitch ass back down. I look again at Jeanine. She’s crying. “So what the fuck did we just learn ladies?” Shirley Creel asks.
Feminine cheers spew out.
Shirley nods her head. “Yes, ladies. We learned there is redemption. We learned that happiness is only a choice we make. And, as soon as we make it, well the world just becomes our motherfucking prostitute. Thank you, Kristen, for sharing that bit.”
She looks down at me from the stage and grins. I smile back, look down at my vacant cellphone, and look back up to silence. All it is—silence, gasps, cries.
The heads of every woman in the room are turned to the main aisle. A man in black is running down toward the stage. He stands in front of Shirley Creel and points a shiny pistol. She grins and then screams, “Do it, bitch. I’m fuckin’ happy.”