873 words about Molly
She waits at the bus stop, unaware of her surroundings. She is absorbed in her shabby copy of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, reading it as if completely captivated, reading it as if she hadn't already done so 37 times. You might say the book is well-thumbed, except her thumbs rarely touch the pages. In fact, she drags her right index finger below each line as she reads, and then uses the same finger to hastily turn the page as she reaches the bottom. She treasures the sense of freedom, of escape, of exploration.
She has never been more than 50km outside of her home town.
When the #34 bus arrives, she climbs aboard and deposits her fare without so much as glancing up. She takes a seat close to the front, but not too close, and sighs a little to herself when she reads the part about living events "too fantastic not to tell." She wonders when her time will come.
The bus has picked her up fairly close to the dingy complex where she shares a tiny 2 bedroom apartment with a roommate who drinks her pineapple juice on the sly and wears little other than the track marks on his arms. She has learned not to ask questions. He is often behind in the rent, not to mention the utilities, and since the lease is in her name, Molly J. Reynolds, this responsibility is a source of more problems than pride.
Dressed in jeans and a hoodie, a backpack propped in the seat beside her, and her interest completely fixated on the paperback in front of her, she looks like all the other students headed to an early morning class, but she isn't. Isn't on her way to class, isn't a student.
Too poor, too dumb: this is what she tells herself. She doesn't give herself nearly enough credit.
She's actually on her way to work, a copy centre not far from a buzzing college campus. She spends her days copying students' homework, collating theses, and if she's lucky, she'll get to handle a blueprint. She loves the feel, she loves the smell. She wishes she knew more about them, anything really, other than how to carefully roll them up when they're done.
Molly makes minimum wage. Her chequing account is nearly always overdrawn. She still carries a pink nylon wallet although it rarely contains more than a few quarters and a picture of the parents she hasn't seen since she left home. She is always eager to pick up extra shifts, but the copy business just isn't that demanding. She economizes by eating only every second day. She has long ago forgotten whether that feeling in the pit of her stomach is hunger or unhappiness.
She could probably find another job if she tried. If she worked at the mall, she might earn an extra fifty cents per hour. She might even make it to assistant manager one day, if she really applied herself. She knows the copy place is a dead end.
But she doesn't try; she doesn't want to leave. She doesn't want to get any further away from the college life.
Molly is a pretty girl, but doesn't know it. She's also very lonely, but she doesn't know that, either. Not quite. She saves herself from loneliness by being aloof. She believes her isolation is a choice, almost. And who is there to make friends with, anyway? Her coworkers are fat and forty. Her roommate is too paranoid to be social. And the students, the smug, superior students, are the recipients of her contempt. She scorns anyone who has caught better breaks in life than she.
So when a young man routinely uses his laundry money to make copies he doesn't need, Molly doesn't notice. She meets his warm smile with only a cursory one of her own. She gives him the minimum customer service required by company policy, and spends more time looking at his accounting text book than at him. Fifty-six unnecessary copies later, he still hasn't worked up the courage to ask her out.
She washes the smudges off her hands before she leaves for the day. The cheap soap in the dispenser smells funny, but it's free. Her hands are rough and chapped; her right index finger alone, the one she uses for reading and page turning, has 4 paper cuts. One of them looks infected. She has 3 quarters in her wallet, enough for a snack out of the vending machine, but it's not her day to eat. She knows she'll need those quarters even more tomorrow, and so she saves them. She gulps greedily from the water fountain instead - a vain attempt to subdue the grumbles in her stomach.
And with only water sloshing around in her belly, she crosses the street to her favourite place in the world - the library. No one questions her right to be there, and she doesn't try to check out books. The library is warmer than her apartment, and far more comfortable. She curls up in an over-stuffed chair and devours one book after the other. This is how she spends her free time. This is how she spends her life.