There were mornings when Theresa schlepped armfuls of architectural plans six frozen blocks down from the office she earned her money to a small mailing outpost. The plans were sent to other parts of the state, taken by bi-plane and maybe even sled dog team to towns buried deep in the snow. Once they arrived at their destination, the plans would be reviewed and approved, and sent back to the office to her attention.
The plans were her tickets out of the doldrums at least every other morning, and she didn’t mind that they sometimes shook out of her arms and rolled down dirty, snowy sidewalk. The smells of urban Alaska were acrid and trapped in the sometimes well-below-zero air: car exhaust, french fries, coffee breath. Once while tramping down snow on her normal route (all the while wishing for some of those mukluks that some of the Native women wore) a car slowed down beside her. The driver, a smarmy looking overweight man, motioned that she come closer to him. She shook her black, staticy hair and continued walking, still juggling the rolls of plans awkwardly and tried not to look back at the man, still driving slowly behind her, pacing her, waiting to see if she changed her mind about him. Did Alaskan prostitutes normally carry large rolls of architectural plans? Did they normally look so out of place? Theresa knew that the ones she’d seen looked like most other street prostitutes she’d seen (she had no idea if she’d met an escort or not): They looked hungry and worn, and walked in a jerking way, their hips rotating outward. Denim covered their thin hips. Theresa rarely wore jeans, instead she tights and boots, a thick scarf and purple woolen hat. Her outward appearance didn’t fit that of a prostitute, but maybe the men could read her thoughts. Maybe they knew she was wicked underneath her skin.
One day, one of the men in trucks who whistled at her grew too aggressive, and shouted after her as she ignored his pleas for her attention. After that, she was too annoyed, and a little too frightened to walk the six blocks to the mail outpost. She held them at her neat and orderly desk until Ben came to pick her up at lunchtime, and drove her where she needed to go. After she dropped the plans off, they would sit and eat their simple yogurt-and-sandwich-and-apple-and-latte (mocha for Ben) lunch and mumble how their mornings were, until the mumbles turned to near shouts. Not at each other, never at each other. At the isolation from manners. About how far they were from door-opening-for-strangers and casual waves at intersections. From thank you, ma’ams and howdy do’s. They were so far from where they had come from.