She’d told a counselor at Haven House that she dreamed of someday going to Mexico, but that she was afraid. The woman had tilted her head and peered over her glasses.
“Life’s a series of terrifying things,” she’d replied with a cold shrug. “What are you going to do about it?”
So the first thing Ruby did was go to the movies alone. In the dark, no one could feel sorry for her.
She spent much of the movie staring at a couple that was making out a few rows ahead, and then at a single guy she spotted in the next section to her left, sitting by the aisle. She wondered whether he was also trying to do things alone, or if he already knew how.
When the credits started rolling, she tried to recall the salient points of the movie, but couldn’t. It had been Will Smith, pit against a clone of himself. There was a third clone, too, with a machine gun. Why they were all mad at each other, she had no idea.
Ruby looked around for the guy who’d come alone but he was already gone. He had left candy wrappers strewn all over the seat next to his, as if he’d come to gorge in the dark and then fled the scene of the crime. Popcorn crunched under her feet on the way out.
Would she clone herself, Ruby wondered? It would solve her solitude problem.
She shook her head no when the thought appeared, in the hallway by the bathroom. She looked behind her to see if anyone had caught the head shake, but the hallway was empty.
It was hard enough to live with her own mind. She couldn’t bear another version of herself to contend with.
A few days later, Ruby took herself to dinner. There was a new Italian place on the north end of Main Street, by the railroad. It had dark tablecloths and beige candles. She sat by the window. She had brought a book, just in case, but resisted the urge to take it out.
When she ordered the shrimp linguine, the waiter suggested wine pairings. Her mouth watered. The din of the restaurant flooded her ears. There was a tightness in her chest, until she remembered to breathe.