Girl Waiting

Nida looks at the email subject line, "Very Sweet Girl Waiting," and wonders
why this Guitierrez is writing to her. She has been editing so long that
she thinks for a moment of replying to Guitierrez to tell him he should
change the subject line to "Sweet Girl Waiting."

Guitierrez sits at a rough plank table, a half-empty bottle of red wine next
to a clear tumbler. The label on the bottle is stained with wine.
Guitierrez pours carelessly. Perhaps he is also thinking of the girl, or he
simply may be hurrying to fill his glass.

"It's you," he says to Nida. His voice suggests neither surprise nor
pleasure. He raises his glass and offers it to her, a nasty smile on his
face. He knows she will not drink from his glass.

Nida looks around. She doesn't see a computer. A newspaper, folded in
thirds lies on the table. Guitierrez opens the paper and reads. Nida stands
behind him, but although she sees the headlines she can't understand the
language. The photographs are blurred as though they'd been taken from a
moving bus.

"You want something?" he asks without raising his eyes from the paper.

A candle gutters below a naked light bulb that swings from the ceiling on a
cord. The windows are closed on newspaper to keep out cold air. The windows
have not been opened for a long time, and the newspaper is yellowed. A fire
hazard, Nida thinks. She worries about the girl who is not at the table with
Guitterez, but locked in the next room. Guitierrez, in danger, would take
care of himself leaving her to perish. Has an earthquake shaken the building
causing the bulb to swing?

Nida shakes her head. She recognizes Guitierrez from the 42 bus, which she
takes to work in the morning.

Guitierrez has not shared his wine with the girl. Nida can see her sitting
on a faded armchair. The arms of the chair are threadbare. The girl rests
her head against a white crocheted antimacassar.

In the girl's room a 60 watt bulb is screwed into a metal starburst in the
ceiling. The walls swallow the light like a hungry dog.

The girl rests, and in her lap, her hands lie still, one in the other, her
tapered fingers curling towards her belly. Her pale eyelids are closed. Nida
would like to see the girl's eyes. The girl's lips curve up. Nonetheless,
Nida sees she is not smiling. She has a dolphin-like mouth that gives her
face the look of perpetual pleasantness. Nida has no patience with these
mouths or their owners who have deceived her. She will not make that
mistake again. Through her irritation, she tells herself the girl has done
nothing to harm her. Can do nothing?

No, she remains sitting, eyes closed. A narrow bed with a black metal
headboard is pushed into a corner. A khaki blanket covers the bed. A thin
white pillow lies in the center of the bed. Why? Nida scans the room. No
mirror hangs over the scarred bureau on which a red plastic pocketbook sits
gaping. A pale yellow silk scarf hangs out of the bag like the tongue of a
sick man. Nida reminds herself that looks are deceiving.

Back in the room with Guitierrez, Nida sees that the light bulb has come to
equilibrium. Nothing in the room is in motion, not even Guitierrez himself.
He is not breathing, but he is not dead.

Locked in the next room is the very sweet girl. Nida has Guitierrez' word,
and he has no reason to mislead her. What is she waiting for? For whom? Her
computer has gone to sleep. She pours a glass of wine from the bottle with
the stained label. A sweet girl.

Miriam Kotzin writes both fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared in more
than one hundred online and print magazines, including Boulevard
(of which she is a contributing editor), Slow Trains, The Pedestal Magazine,
Carve Magazine, Fiction Warehouse, Small Spiral Notebook, Three Candles,
Flashquake, Offcourse, Mid-American Review and Thieves Jargon. She is a
featured writer currently in Twenty1 Lashes and in Southern Hum. Her work has
received three Pushcart Prize nominations.

At Drexel University she teaches creative writing and literature and directs
the Certificate Program in Writing and Publishing.

She also writes fiction collaboratively with Bill Turner. They are founding
editors of Per Contra.

2006 Underground Voices