(This is the bleakest season of April's life. Can she ever recover?)
With her thirty thousand dollars and her cozy, dark apartment, April felt temporarily safe. She didn’t have to think about anyone hating her and she didn’t have to fear any disasters. All the worst things had happened. Many days, she would grab her coat and run into the street, walking briskly as if to some important destination. Then, realizing she had no place to go, she would stand in the middle of the sidewalk, men cursing her stupidity for blocking their path.
It was a remarkable winter, bright and cheerful with many days of blue skies and brilliant sunshine. It snowed frequently and the light reflecting off the snow added to the brightness. She didn’t go out much and the sunshine was a reproach. To be indoors on a sunny day in America was worse than Communism.
Every day she awoke with the resolve to do something. Today would be the day she would begin eating sensibly. She would even start out by cutting up a bagful of carrots and celery sticks to munch on when her habits got the better of her. By eleven o’clock, she had begun nibbling. First a piece of toast with cottage cheese. That was wholesome. Commendable. She dribbled a smidgen of honey over the cheese so she wouldn’t be left with a cheesy taste in her mouth. Still okay.
Ten minutes after the toast and cheese and the smidgen of honey, she was back in the Pullman kitchen. She felt like something juicy. A ripe pear or an apple and while she was there a few peanuts – a nice complementary taste and texture. Thirst took over but the idea of water alone wasn’t appealing. Perhaps a milk shake, something frothy and sweet. She had kept the blender.
Her jaw ached and her head buzzed. She could feel the chemical changes taking place inside her, the crossed signals, the weariness, the torpor and ultimately, about four o’clock in the afternoon – that began the loneliest time of the day – a stone-like immobility. She would sit there in her giant club chair, unable to move or think. She did this almost every day for the next eight months.
One morning she awoke after sleeping fourteen hours and didn’t know what day of the week it was or what hour of the day. She went into the bathroom returned to bed and flipped on the television. A talk show host was interviewing a black woman who had given birth to Siamese twins and they had been successfully separated. It was a poignant story but after listening for one or two minutes, April heard only gibberish. She tried to concentrate but all she got was a garbled sound.
Her first desire was to leave the apartment. It was claustrophobic. She had been alone for four days and wanted to be surrounded by people. She put on a dress, a pretty print made of a cheap synthetic picked out at Macy’s. It was cut in an a-line and had once fit well. Now it bunched up in the back above the hips and was indecently short. She put on a raincoat to hide the shortness. It was not raining. It was the perfect season for a suit. She had always admired women who wore well-cut suits with ironed dimity blouses that buttoned up the back. Sara Davis’ mother had worn suits all through school and was now an assistant to the mayor. She had gone back to school – Harvard or Yale or some other big deal school.
In her dress and raincoat and sneakers without socks, she walked from the Thirties to Fifth Avenue and then to 50th Street. It was close enough to lunchtime to make the sidewalks crowded. The sun really hurt her eyes and made her want to close them but she couldn’t just stand on a busy sidewalk with her eyes closed. She fished into her large shoulder-strap bag for sunglasses but her eyes still hurt so she stepped into Saks Fifth Avenue where it was cool and dim. She would look around at the merchandise until she felt like going home again.