The House Girl

Did he invent them for my benefit, or for his own?

Did the color of his skin matter? No, Lina decided, wouldn’t his racial ambiguity be a strength? Wasn’t this a history from which they had all emerged, every American, black and white and every shade in between?

dimly registered a thin blue rug

If there is one lesson I wish to bestow upon you, one shred of wisdom I have gained from my living, dying days, it is this: let your heart lead you, do not be afraid, for there will be much to regret if reason and sense and fear are your only markers.

Is it too much to wish for such a life? Is it too little?

It is a debasement to a man’s character to behave so brutally, Father said.

It struck Linda suddenly that this was the middle of the night. Even here, in the city that never slept, most people now were sleeping. Law firm time was like casino time, only instead of an endless cocktail hour it was always a neon-bright afternoon. The dead center of the workday, all night long.

Just to sit for a moment, herself, no one claiming her time or her thoughts or the product of her mind and hands. What other word to call that if not freedom?

let your heart lead you, do not be afraid, for there will be much to regret if reason and sense and fear are your only markers.

Let your heart lead you, do not be afraid, for there will be much to regret if reason and sense and fear are your only markers

...Lina longed suddenly for a sliver of that must have been her mother's allure, and talent, and passion, and willingness to embrace her own complicated life.

Mister hit Josephine with the palm of his hand across her left cheek and it was then she knew she would run.

Over the years she had learned to fold down rising emotion just as she would fold the clean bedsheets, the sheet growing smaller and tighter with each pass until all that remained of that wide wrinkled expanse of cotton was a hard closed-in square.

The harder road. Because she was a woman? Because she was short? Because her law school ranked top-ten but not top-five? “Hey.


There is a certain kind of man who is forever searching. He wanders from place to place, he looks hard into the eyes of women and men in every town, maybe he scratches the earth or wields a gun, remedies illnesses or writes books, and there is always a vague emptiness within him. It is the emptiness that drives him and he does not know even how to name that thing that might fill it. No idea of home or love or peace comes to him. He does not know, so he cannot stop. On and on he moves. and the emptiness blinds him and pulls at him and he is like a newborn baby searching for the teat, knowing it is there, but where?
And sometimes such a man is handed a gift. A gift of direction. A path that is marked for him and there, yes, this will ease your suffering, it is sure. This will cure you, it will fill you up, at least for a time. There will be a home, and love, there will no longer be the sorrow when you look at a cold night sky, the sorrow as the sun rises and the mist burns away.

The things you can control and the things you cannot.

Those nights felt like this now: a creative energy, a limitless enthusiasm, a faith that talent and will and work would ultimately prevail, and a fatalistic wryness about the whole spectacle too-- *of course* we are all creative and interesting, *of course* everyone will know our names, but tomorrow and the next day and the next we must go to our low-paying jobs where we sit on stools or take orders for food or clean up messes that no one else wants to clean; at least tonight we can say we are artists.

Truth was multilayered, shifting; it was different for everyone, each personal history carved unique from the same weighty block of time and flesh.

Why didn't Lina know their names? Why hadn't she studied their histories? Where was the monument? Where was the museum? What had they wished for and worked for and loved?