Lisa stood at the table holding the Fool card for several minutes. The card wavered and trembled as nothing else happened. She dropped the card on the table, stared at the two decks of cards, then swept everything off the table and crumpled into the chair.
“What the flying fuck am I doing? Talking to a card like it’s going to talk back. Of course I’m dreaming about being judged, my life is falling apart! And this… fucking bullshit… is only a distraction and it’s not a fun one. Fuck this. I’m out.”
Lisa stormed away from the kitchen back to her bedroom, tromping over cards, paper, and blanket as she went. She may not have a job today, but there are people whose goodwill can be crashed upon and people who can be a source of fun and people who are both.
As she checked her clothes for the least offensive odors she started messaging her usual daytime party people. “Charlie! Happy No Job Day! Let’s go talk shit about people!”
She pulled a publicly presentable shirt over her head, checked her phone, and grumped. Charlie had changed their status from “Online” to “Do Not Disturb”.
She opened Discord and sent a message to “TheBrandNameBrandon”: “I’m available today for a game of tag if you are.” Brandon’s status changed from Away to Available and she saw the typing indicator float on the screen.
She pulled off her original choices and quickly dressed in something a little tighter and a little shorter. She was hopping to get the tights pulled up all the way when she finally looked at Brandon’s reply.
“Hey. Brandon’s sister here, just to let you know. My brother won’t be giving you anything. NOT A DAMN THING! But now that I know where and who you are, we’ll be right there to give you everything you deserve. See you soon. Bitch.”
“AUGH! DAMMIT!” Lisa signed out of the Discord account. She knew it was an empty threat, but it upset her just the same. She wished she knew if Brandon had been busted for pickpocketing or if that really was his family taking him away. She liked him.
She peeled the tights off and threw them on the exposed mattress. Contact after contact, group chat after chat, the polite people were either already into whatever it is they were into and the impolite people just flat out ghosted her. Dejected, she looked at the blanket lying across the threshold to the bedroom.
“Fine. I’ll go have some fun by myself. Happy No Fucking Job Day to me.”
She dressed back in her “everyday” clothes and left the apartment without looking at the tarot art collection decorating the floor. Walking down the street with her hands in her pockets and her head under last night’s darkness, her automatic walking came to a stop where she should be turning to continue to the bus stop.
If she walks right and continues for two blocks, she’ll be at the bus stop that will take her to the ever-present outdoor art festival. If she walks left and continues for three blocks, she’ll be at the coffee house that Rebecca likes to hang out at.
The bus won’t arrive for another thirty or so minutes so Lisa had time to think about her choice. The art festival meant possibly meeting new “friends” that she can charm and have fun with. But sitting with Rebecca meant she can ask if her dreams are really just dreams or if there is something supernatural going on with tarot.
It briefly occurred to her that she could also go home, clean up the messes she made, and start looking up shit on the internet like how Rebecca advised her to, but that meant acting like a responsible adult, and she’s not ready to do that just yet. She’s not even thirty, for fuck’s sake! She’ll grow up later.
She laughed as she turned right and felt better about herself for making the fun choice. Letting the wind push her, Lisa happily half-skipped, half-bounced along the sidewalk. Her reflection in the store windows bounced with her. She turned her head with the intention of laughing at/with her reflection.
She came to a full stop instead. Her hair was tangled by the wind again. Her half-applied makeup was already streaking from the wind-summoned tears. The stains on her jacket that were barely seen in the dark of her bedroom announced loudly and clearly that the wearer is someone who doesn’t take care of herself.
The wind was no longer in her face but the flow of tears increased. She reminded herself that she was in public and that yelling at inanimate objects probably wasn’t a polite thing to do. Going to the art festival wasn’t a fun idea any longer. She turned away to face the street for a moment, then turned to face the wind. Pulling the hood over her face, she started back to her apartment.
Halfway down the last block before her turn a strangely decorated car pulled over and stopped slightly in front of her. She spent the last modicum of politeness she had stepping aside so the industrial goth passenger could exit the car. Her tangled hair hid most of that person except for the black leather lace-up boots that Lisa could not help but appreciate.
“Nice boots,” she muttered. “Good for ass-kicking.” Lisa would have continued on her way except the wearer of those boots had grabbed Lisa’s right arm, pulled and twisted it behind her, and was swiftly guiding Lisa’s face to interact with the trunk of the car. “Hey!”
“Slow down, Miss. We just want to talk.” A woman leaned into Lisa’s captive view. She moved Lisa’s hair out of the way so she would be seen clearly.
“What the… Cops? Why? I’m just going home! I didn’t do anything! It’s not fair!”
“Did you do anything earlier, Miss? Did you make hand gestures to anyone?” The officer pinning her to the car used his free hand to pat her down causing Lisa to yell at him about feeling her up.
“He’s just making sure you’re safe, Miss.”
“I’m not some fff…. I’m not a druggie! I got nothing on me but my keys and I was going home! Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid!”
The two police officers confirmed that not only did Lisa have a set of keys in her pockets, but that the only other thing she had with her was a bus pass. No money. No phone. No wallet. No ID.
“Where did you find the keys, Miss?” The female officer wasn’t as softly spoken as she was before.
“Find? They’re mine! For my apartment!”
“Did you find a name to go with them?”
“I don’t get…” Lisa’s confusion was clarified when the handcuffs embraced her wrists. “You think I stole them?! They’re mine! My ID is at home! We’re two blocks away from my apartment, right there!”
The male officer paused as his muffled radio muttered something to him. He jerked her upright as he shared the information with his partner. “The manager confirmed, she’s the vagrant that was threatening the office staff through the window.”
“WHAT OFFICE STAFF?! I haven’t talked to … OW… I didn’t… No!” The officers easily pushed and pulled her into the rear seat of the patrol car. As they drove away, the female officer recited oft spoken phrases of how Lisa will be able to sleep in safety tonight and have a hot meal.
Lisa only cried as she realized that the storefront window she stopped at was so heavily tinted that she could not see inside. She could barely tolerate how she was appearing. Lisa understood that to someone who did not know her or what she had been going through these past several days, she looked more like a zombie than a normal human being. While she had not been read her rights, she remained silent and waited for the opportunity to explain herself to someone who didn’t assume she was trash.
Lisa was promised that opportunity after being fingerprinted and booked. All she had to do was wait in this small room that had only a bench bolted into a wall for furniture. Someone would be with her shortly to hear her explain again what her name is and why she was making faces in the window and once the judge is available we’ll get this all sorted out.
This wasn’t Lisa’s first arrest. Excuse… “Temporary Hold.” She knew that her identity would be confirmed once her fingerprints were ran in the system. What she wasn’t sure about was if there was a warrant out for her arrest or not. She didn’t think she had anything outstanding, but with the sloppy way her ex-boss and his son attempted to cover up their crimes, who is to say that they didn’t also try to pin anything on her.
For the next several hours, Lisa sat patiently on the bench. She gave up crying soon after the door closed and faced the uncertain future with stoic futility. No matter how hard she had tried not to think about it, she viewed the detainment as one more checklist box ticked on her world’s destruction’s todo list.
She thought about the Fool card. How the artwork on the card seemed to match her intentions before the police intervened. She was happily on her way to score a hit, score a mark, score a couch, or better yet, all three at once. Even though that meant having one day less to find another job, or getting hurt, or not being rested enough to do well at her other jobs. Or worse, having to go back to her aunt to be rescued.
Lisa acknowledged being the Fool in her life. Anything for the literal fun of it. She already knew she had to change the world she lived in. Now she understood she had to change herself as well.
“Hey. Tarot. Capital T.” Her lips moved but she made as little sound as possible. “Okay. I asked to see the Fool and you fucker, you showed me. But, what am I beginning, and why do I need to bring it to an end?”
Lisa had barely closed her eyes to finally allow herself the luxury of sleep when the door lock clattered and the door itself opened. “Lisa? You’re being released. This way, please.”
Lisa stretched herself slowly after standing up and quietly followed the officer to the front of the station. Seeing her sister waiting for her lurched her stomach and for a moment Lisa considered making a scene so she would be detained further and get that peace and quiet that the female officer had promised her.
“God. You smell. When is the last time you bathed? Don’t say it was for the interview because they smelled you entering the building.”
“Hello, Jean. How much do I owe you this time?”
Black, pointed, manicured nails rapped against the counter as the attending officer brought the bag holding Lisa’s worldly belongings. Lisa signed acknowledgement that the station was not responsible if any of her items had been damaged while out of her sight. The bus pass had a hole punched into the magnetic stripe of the card, ruining it and preventing any recovery or transfer of the balance still assigned to the card.
“The only reason I’m here collecting you is because I don’t want Aunt Helen to know what you’ve done this time. To be honest, I can’t stand looking at you. The only reason I’m taking you home is because they were nice enough to put you aside for me. This time.”
Lisa slowed as they neared the station doors. “Put me aside?”
“Just shut up. Shut the hell up. You don’t know how much you have cost me in opportunities and payments. You couldn’t even afford to think about what I have had to exchange for your self-infested pretend game of adulthood.”
Lisa had enough awareness of her environment to wait until she was in the parking lot of the police station before pulling her hood over her head. Jean snatched the hood off immediately, pulling on Lisa’s still tangled hair as she did so.
“Take that off. You don’t get to hide anymore. You don’t get to pretend that honest people like me don’t see you anymore. You were a rat of a child and you’re a rat’s nest of an adult. Now get in and don’t you say a word to me once the doors are closed.”
Lisa did as she was commanded, much to Jean’s surprise. Jean drove away from the station but did not immediately turn towards Lisa’s apartment. To Lisa’s relief, neither did Jean turn immediately towards the opposite side of the city. Jean drove out of the city entirely while Lisa stared blankly out of the passenger window. It was like old times again, Lisa thought.
After about twenty minutes, Jean pulled into the parking lot of a diner. Lisa waited for the doors to be unlocked so she could exit, but Jean just sat still in the driver’s seat. After several grinding minutes, Jean quieted the car and spoke.
“What the fuck is wrong with you? Why are you like this? Did a hit burn your head out or something? Why? Why do you have to fuck up every good thing that you have touched or even looked at? All you had to do was show up to the interview. That’s it. Be dressed. Be clean. Be nice smelling for God’s sake! They told me how you arrived. How you behaved. They tried to give you a second chance by actually interviewing you in case you had shit luck that morning, but no, you saw a good thing and pissed the hell all over it. Why! WHY DAMN YOU! WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO EXIST?!”
Lisa said nothing. She knew better than to interrupt her sister’s monologue. Aunt Helen’s vicious wit poured down the family tree to Jean, and Lisa was still smarting from other hard ground lessons to risk exposing those inner wounds now.
“Did you know our cousins have jobs? They’re what… eighteen and nineteen? And, get this, they only have one job each and it’s enough to pay the rent and the electric bill! Aunt Helen can’t stop talking about them and how well they have carried the family legacy.”
Jean stopped talking. This would be the moment when Lisa normally took the bait and ask if Aunt Helen had asked about her, but she knew the script of the screaming match that would normally follow the question. So Lisa remained silent and waited for the answer to her whispered question to appear.
“WHY AREN’T YOU SAYING ANYTHING!” Jean broke the silence first with impatience.
“Nothing to say.” Lisa’s reply was quiet and directed more to herself than to her sister.
“Why the hell not!” Jean’s hands shook with renewed rage. Lisa was being twice as bullheaded with this new silent routine and Jean was done being mocked by her.
“Because, we’re having the same words again. It’s the same cycle again. You yell a lot and I cry a lot. You remind me that Mom would have been disappointed in me and I remind you that she left you as well as me. You get guilty for trying to hurt me the way Aunt Helen does and promise that you’ll help me if I help myself and I promise you that I will and that…”
Lisa’s face blanches and her eyes grew large as the meaning of the unspoken words soak into her understanding. Her mouth opened as if to speak but paused as if to hold her breath forever.
Jean’s anger transformed into concern. She had never seen Lisa react this way in an argument. Had never seen Lisa actually thinking on anything for a moment. Concern flashed into fear and Jean wondered if Lisa was having an episode. “And that… what?”
Jean’s voice pulled Lisa from wherever her thoughts had transported her to. When Lisa turned to look at her, Jean shuddered as Lisa’s gaze seemed to be seeing through her.
“I promise you that I will and that I will start a new beginning.” Lisa’s sight returned to the interior of the car. She looked her sister in the face as tears cleansed the path between her eyes and her heart. “And that’s got to stop, Jean. It’s nothing you can do, nothing you can buy. It’s me. I have to end this beginning. I have to break this cycle.”
Lisa laughed, a soft and scary noise, and sat back in the car seat. “Take me back to my apartment, please. I have some messes to clean up, and there are things I have to look up.”
Lisa’s request was so matter-of-fact that Jean was not sure if to take her to her apartment or to the hospital. She started the car but did not move. “I… I heard about the restaurant job. I’m glad you were clear of that when it happened. But… are you going to be able to pay the rent next month?”
“I’ll figure that out next month. Right now, I have messes to clean up, including myself. Please, let’s go before someone thinks I’m making faces at them and start a new round of shit.”
Jean pulled out of the parking lot and drove back into the city. Lisa asked to be dropped off at the corner, but Jean insisted on pulling into the parking garage even though she would have to pay for the privilege. As Lisa started to get out of the car, Jean grabbed her coat and stuffed something in the pocket.
“No. Shut up. Get out. I won’t collect you if you get arrested again. You said you have to break the cycle, then do it. But I can’t… I won’t help you any further.”
Lisa patted the pocket and knew from the shape what had been given to her. She looked at her sister with tired eyes. “That’s fair.”
Jean took a breath to resume the screaming where it had left off but fully understood Lisa’s reply before she sounded off. “Don’t you usually say that it’s not fair?”
“It’s the end of the beginning. I have to accept where I am, right. I don’t like it. It’s uncomfortable. I feel terrible. But I’ve done that to myself, so… that’s fair. Thank you for collecting me, Jean. Go home.”
Lisa closed the car door on Jean’s attempt to have the last word. Once she turned to face the stairwell, she did not look back. By the time she reached the door to the stairwell, she had already mentally blotted out the sound of Jean’s car idling as her sister waited for Lisa to be safely inside before leaving.
It was almost sunset when Lisa entered her apartment. She could smell the soured coffee still sitting on the counter. The cards remained scattered over the sheets that had been dragged nearly into the kitchen. Her wallet was next to her phone. Her phone was fully charged and in sleep mode. Both were right where she had forgotten them on the counter in her hurry to escape the morning.
Waking the phone screen, she saw several missed calls and countless social media notifications. They wearied her to look at them. She turned the phone face down on the counter and turned her own face to the cards on the floor.
She arranged both decks in the order that Rebecca had sorted them and placed them with the crumpled list of meanings on the table. She gathered the blanket and sheets and remade her bed even though she was planning to crawl into that bed later. Fluffing the pillow encouraged the scent of her stressed body to remind her tired mind that it has been days since she last took basic care of herself.
In the shower, she allowed herself to cry all the tears that she had held away from Jean. It really wasn’t fair, she silently sobbed, that she was being given so much shit for being what everyone always said she would be. It also wasn’t fair that everyone expected her to break the cycle she had been inserted into but no one would actually help her do so.
“Cycle. That’s what the judge said. That it would not stop until the cycle is complete. Then Rebecca moved a step out of order. She put the beginning near the end and started me at the end. I’m going backwards. Maybe I’m unmaking the choices that have been fucking me over?”
Lisa banished the clothes she was wearing into tightly tied trash bags. She wasn’t so sure that she will be able to salvage them in the wash. She thought about looking at the tarot decks and the list of meanings for what the next card was, but just the thought of raising her head exhausted her.
Shortly after night had pulled itself into the sky, Lisa pulled herself into her bed and went to sleep.