They gave me a pencil and a single sheet of paper and they told me to write slowly and clearly, so that I wouldn’t miss a thing. I looked first at the angular man with the protruding chin standing above me and then the round dark-haired woman who stood slightly behind him. I thought it odd that they were the same height and their skin the same color: a lifeless, milky pink. Their faces blended together to make one misshapen head. One of them smelled like potatoes, though it may have been both of them. It made my temples throb. I looked across the table and around the room, at the other chairs, the small brown couch in the corner, the painting of the red barn on rolling green hills that hung on the wall above the small table with two flowers, red and orange peonies, in a thin white glass vase. The room was filled with a pale-yellow light, a glow that made everything seem as if it had been left in the sun for too long. The man glanced over his shoulder at the large clock on the wall and pushed his glasses up his nose. The woman nodded and together, the man and the woman turned and walked out of the room, letting the metal door slam behind them. I wasn’t sure what they were looking to hear, but they didn’t have to remind me to remember. I could never forget a thing.
They were asking me, for one final time, to write my story, the events that led me here, the events that I witnessed, just as I knew them, for they needed to document them, they said. After that I would be free to go. I was to be released for I was no longer considered of the age to be in the care of the state. They told me these things as if they knew my history; as if they studied my file, my chart, but it was obvious they barely knew my name. I wasn’t sure I recognized my full name at this point, not after all these years, so I tried not to think about it. I wanted them to give me my file — the thick green folder that held my name, my history, my relatives — the file that was my family, my link to all that I was. That was all I wanted but they did not have it.
I sat for a few moments staring at the blank piece of paper before I stood and walked around the table. The pants they had given me upon my release did not fit and I held them taut by bunching the excess fabric in my fist and pulling them up past my navel. I walked with my butt pushed in and my pelvis angled upward. The shirt, ironically, was too small and stretched at the elbows, barely reaching the top of my wrists. It was obvious that the clothes came from not one of the deceased but, rather, two men in the home who had recently died. I was not given my original belongings, for I was only a child of eight or nine when I first arrived, or I might have been ten, nor was I given a belt. Or a hat. If truth be told, I really would have liked a hat. I am very fond of hats. They are practical for keeping the wind from my bald skull, but I like to wear them inside as well, to shield my eyes from bright, exposing lights. I like hats. I would have liked it if they had given me a hat, but not if it were to come from yet a third dead man.
I stood near the wall and reached up with both hands but found I was too short. I balanced on my toes and raised my arms up as high as they would go, but I still could not reach. That was always the case, ever since I was a child, playing near the river. Never tall enough and too slow. I pulled a chair to the wall and stepped up on the seat so that I could reach the clock. I pushed it up along the wall, and then pulled it off the large grey nail and felt its weight in my hands. It had a large white face with two enormous black hands, and I could hear the ticking like an exposed heart in a small chest that I held. Turning it over in my hands, I pushed against the wedged dial to move it in circles and watched the large hand spin in a fit of forced madness, with the smaller hand following behind. I did that twice, so the time moved forward by several hours and then returned the clock to its proper place on the nail and pushed the chair back under the table.
I grabbed at the top of the trousers and walked back to my place at the table and sat down. I picked up the pencil to write what they had told me, but according to the clock, it was past the time to go, so I set the pencil back down and turned the paper over. My story was too long for one sheet of paper anyway, and the circumstances that brought me here cannot be recorded by me, for not only was I not there, but also, I do not know how to write. I guess that is something the skinny man and round woman overlooked. Instead, I sat and looked at the tabletop and thought of my mother, who I last saw when I was small. Maybe I was eight or nine, but I could have been ten. I do not recall my age, but it holds no consequence, then or now. She was a large woman or at least she was to me, with short reddish bobbed hair that shot away from her face in clumps, as if in sudden fright. She had overgrown features and large shoulders, and thick, wiggly fingers. When I was near her, she would bring me close to her; she would hold me very close, her arms tightly pressed against my shoulders. She would tell me stories about her father and growing up on the farm. She taught me about the different kinds of trees, and flowers and stones and butterflies. Whatever we saw in the field. She always spoke to me slowly and deliberately, as if she had to do so, in order to keep me from running away. As soon as a story ended, and she took a breath, I would leap from her lap, and run as fast as I could. It became a game to us: how many stories could she tell me before I would get tired and would run far enough that I could no longer hear her. I never counted and rarely heard her voice once I began to run. The only time I did was the last time, when I was eight or nine, or I could have been ten. As I ran, she screamed and fell to her knees. Her scream scared me for she never screamed, or even yelled after me before. I stopped and turned to see her, slumped to the ground, with her hands covering her eyes, her scream echoed into the air. I can only say that it sounded like someone dying or having an arm or a leg slowly ripped from their torso, if you were to ever experience hearing either of those two things, which I have not. It was painful to listen to, for I loved my mother. I miss her and am sorry I never saw her again, the man and woman should have made a note of that. That last day, our game changed. When I heard her scream, I stopped running and turned, to watch her scream and sob. Hers was a desperate cry. It confused me and scared me, for she was my mother, but I could do nothing, for I was just a boy of eight or nine, or I could have been ten, so I turned and ran away. I ran as far as I could and did not look back.
The man and woman said that the board had granted me my freedom for I was of the proper age and was no longer a threat to myself. I could not have my file, but I was free to go. I spent more than half of my life at Maple Grove Sanitarium, a tall brick building filled with large windows wrapping around its various walls and columns. My daily existence consisted of an endless list of rigid rules and regulations and flashes of men and women in white, moving around between the sick and the silent, frantically trying to administer those rules. I was free to leave, they told me, but I didn’t want to go, I was very happy there. The water in the bath was warm, they gave me food; it was all I really needed. I went to the bathroom when I had to go. We were not criminals, so we were treated in kind. There was a radio in the main room and copies of the newspaper, but since I did not know how to read, I liked to look at the photographs and the funny papers. Some older men played cards, others assembled puzzles. I spoke very little and tried to keep my distance from the other patients. With my release, they gave me civilian clothes and money, the amount the state owed me, they had said, paid in full. They made a point of making sure I understood that. I looked in the envelope and saw several double sawbucks. Uncle Sam was fair and honest, the man had told me, as he closed my fingers around the money. The bills were stuffed into an envelope, along with a handwritten receipt, which I shoved into the front pants pocket, the pocket that extended almost to my knee.
They told me that I was free to leave Maple Grove, but that the inquiry was the last step in the process. It would take an hour, they told me, then I could start my new life and get on with it, if life were a thing to be had. An inquiry, that is what they called it, though they never made it clear what it was they were inquiring about. I suspected that it was regarding my mother, though I did not know that since I couldn’t see my file. The man and woman spoke very briefly and wanted only my confession about what I knew leading to the event, for that is what they told me. I had nothing to confess I said. No, no, they knew that, they just needed to record all that I knew, and when I knew it. That is what they said. They left me in that small room to remember the circumstances and to record them as I knew them, but I could not write the facts, no more than I could write my name.
When I had first entered Maple Grove, a very tall policeman visited me there. After I ran from my mother for the last time, I wandered the streets for a few days. They found me and took me to the sanitarium. I didn’t know what had happened or why I was brought there. The policeman didn’t tell me anything or where my mother and father were, but only brought me milk and asked me questions about my parents. I opened my mouth, but no words came, the only sound inside me was the pattering of leaves vibrating in the wind. I could not tell him anything. I didn’t know my parents’ whereabouts then, any more than I did ten years later, when I was released. I only knew how they made me feel. One was good, the other bad. Facts are like the earth, broken and cracked, and I had none. All is no longer, this tale of woe, but I go on, nonetheless.
The room we were in was reserved for visitors, and very close to the front exit. I had never had a visitor, but I was aware of the room. It was the only room I ever saw at Maple Grove with plants or paintings, though I did feel a sense of relief for it smelled of disinfectant and body odor, just like the rest of the building. I rose from the table and ran my hand across the knotty fabric of the couch and looked at the white vase with the two flowers. I grabbed a petal from the ruby red peony and put it in my mouth, sucking the curled silkiness between my tongue and the roof of my mouth. I walked past the door, turned right down the hall and then proceeded to walk out of the building. There wasn’t anyone at the front entrance to stop me.
I pulled up the trousers when I reached a small road out front. My feet wanted to take me far away, but my head was foggy. Snow had fallen and there was a thin layer of white covering the small hill in front of me, crunching beneath the boots. In the distance, I could see the buildings and the factory smoke from where I stood. I did not know where I was exactly; I could only see that I was on the outskirts of town. I remembered the city quite well, having played in the streets and alleys, near the river, when I was younger. The kids from Court Street, we darted around those black boxy Pontiacs and Buicks and Chevrolets as they veered and teetered on the dirt streets, around the horse drawn carriages, the clusters of people trying to make their way across the street. I was cold as a cold wind wrapped about my shoulders and midsection. Holding the pants up, I walked towards town, and did not look back at the institution that had confined me, and cared for me, for the past ten years.
I walked along the road, towards the bustle of the city, but I wasn’t sure what I was looking for in town. There was a staleness in the air that filled my nostrils. My mother was in Holy Ghost Cemetery, I was sure of that, for someone had told me that many years ago, but I didn’t know where that was. I wondered what her grave looked like, the headstone, though I was sure I didn’t want to visit her there. Visiting her wouldn’t be as much fun, now that the game was over. It would be so easy to run away, now, and she wouldn’t be there to play her end of the game and pretend to be surprised or disappointed. She would then call out my name, knowing I would always come back, sometimes beating her back to the house. I could only stand on the ground that separated us and wonder what clothes she was buried in for all of eternity or if they had cleaned the dirt from beneath her fingernails before they lowered her deep into the hole in the ground. I wondered if my father had suddenly appeared to attend her funeral? Most likely not. Perhaps he was dead now too, and I had nowhere to go, and now I would be too old for an orphanage too, no doubt.
I looked up to see an automobile racing towards me, an arm waving out the window. I watched as it headed straight for me, its headlights bobbing against the deep blue sky. I threw myself back as the automobile swerved past me and then came to a sudden stop.
“My apologies, fella.” A man called out to me. “Just getting used to this snow. Hell, I am still getting the feel of this here automobile. This Packard is my brother’s and the brakes feel funny. And it turns funny.”
I had wiped the snow off my clothes. “That’s okay, I’m okay.”
“You need a ride? I’m heading towards the city, if you don’t mind the slides and the bumps now and then.”
“No, I’m going to walk.”
“You going into town?”
“Yessir,” I said.
“Where’s your coat?”
“I don’t have a coat, I don’t need one.”
As the man shook his head, I took one step towards the automobile, trying to peer inside. The man had a large and long brown mustache. I could smell the odor of his body meander through the car’s interior.
“I’m used to the cold, I’m okay,” I said. The man was watching me; his blue eyes narrowed, and he straightened the brown fedora on his head. I nodded my head.
“But, say, mister, could you tell me who the president is?”
“Why, Hoover. Herbert Hoover. He’s our man. Well, for a little while longer. We just elected Franklin Roosevelt to be our next president. He’ll go in in ’33.”
“Oh, okay.” I had never heard of Herbert Hoover. President Coolidge was our president the last I knew, and no one had told me different. I took great pride in knowing about our presidents.
The man looked at me and squinted his eyes. “Say, brother, you on the lam?”
“Me? No, sir, I haven’t done anything wrong. I’ve never been to prison, never set a foot in prison, not even to visit. No, sir.” And that was not a lie, that’s for sure. Living was hard enough. We are all born to an undetermined sentence, and very few of us are pardoned. But I did not go on.
“Alright then. You should have a coat, it’d keep you warm, you know. You, ah, you sure you don’t need a lift?”
“No, I’ll be fine. Thank you all the same. Say, how far would you say till town?”
“You reach the bend up there, it’s a straight shot from there. That road will take you into the north end. A couple of miles, I’d venture.”
And the man drove away, the back of his black Packard swerved down the road, his brake lights flashing like Morse code.
By late afternoon, I reached downtown. My legs were heavy as I walked alongside the buildings, close to the darkened shops, the smell of kerosene and winter air. I know I had been on Lincoln Street many times before, had run up and down these blocks when I was a child, but nothing looked familiar. The shops, the windows, the signs, even the side streets. The bricks, the creaking of the signs swaying in the wind, the large wooden doors. It made me smile that the town was bigger, longer, brighter than I had remembered. Everything seemed fresh, and now, yet felt comfortable. My shoes hurt my feet, and I was tired of holding my pants cinched at the waist.
In the glass window of a door just beyond the spice shop, there was a small sign, browned and curled from the elements, ROOM TO RENT, RING BELL. And so I did. I spit out the flower petal and the pale pink landed on the ground, soft and wet and torn. I rang the bell once and was about to push it a second time when a man opened the door. He stood in front of two adjoining doors, his large frame filling the doorway. As I started in, he told me to “Move, small thing. I didn’t open the door for you.” But I could not move forward, or at all. I could not budge in either direction between his large belly and the small entryway. I could smell cheese on his breath, the scent of olives or olive oil on his fingers. I turned sideways, sucked in my own stomach and finally was able to shimmy past him. The man grunted and walked out to the street, slamming the door behind him. I went through the opposite door, to the right, and climbed the stairs, to be greeted by a woman as wide as she was tall. She did not speak, but when I told her that I was interested in renting a room, she told me the price for one month, which I paid in advance, and she led me to room #3, which was at the end of the hall. She gave me the key and I closed the door behind me.
The room was empty, save a bed, a bedside table and a small wooden desk. The bed was on the wrong side of the room; the table was facing the window. It was not like my room at Maple Grove at all. There was a small closet in the corner and a round mirror next to the door. The rectangular window looked down on the street below. I enjoyed watching the activity on Hudson Street — the milkmen and the young mothers pushing the small children in buggies, and the sad businessmen in bowlers and overcoats, rushing to god knows where. They were always in a rush. The bathroom was down the hall and had a small white tub. There was a large rectangular soap on the sink that I used to clean my areas, as I was wanting to do.
Each morning I was awakened to the sound of a woman yelling, and the banging of pans and the clanging of pots, in what I assumed was a fight between a husband and a wife, though I did not know the landlady to be married. By the time I emerged from my room, she was alone in the kitchen, standing at the counter, staring into space, as if nothing had happened. I never heard another voice, never saw another person in the house. I’d wake up a little earlier each day but still I saw no one. Every morning, though, she would yell all the same, throw the pans on the floor, as if she were in constant battle with a husband who seemed to exist for no one else but her.
Each day I’d bundle up against the cold and search the streets and alleys, the storefronts and small houses tucked in between. I was looking for clues, looking for direction on what to do next. I looked in on the markets and the dress shops, for surely my mother, if she were still alive, would be shopping daily for vegetables or a sturdy winter fabric. I searched in every dark corner and alleyway for my father. One afternoon, as I was warming up in the butcher shop, I noticed a green woolen jacket flung on the back of a chair, near the meat case. A man with a very low voice placed an order for two ham hocks, and I moved around him and grabbed the jacket, slipping back through the shop, clutching the jacket in my fist. Once outside, I slid my arms inside and felt it’s warmth. It was a little large, but the bottom of the jacket covered my shirt, which was visibly too short, too small even for me, and the coat sleeves ran the full length of my arms.
With each passing day, it became increasing clear to me that I wouldn’t find my father. He was probably alive still, like a resilient cockroach, surviving against all odds for these last ten years. He always had a way of emerging, escaping, and then reemerging. Again and again. Long before the last time I saw my mother—when I was eight or nine, but I could have been ten—he would disappear for lengthy periods of time, leaving us alone, and then show up, out of nowhere, for an hour or two. He wouldn’t say much, which was okay since I didn’t say much to him. I was sure he was still alive. Perhaps he was in jail, but knowing my father, he had escaped all of that. Surely, he was in some bar, in the corner of a back street, working an angle or a con, in the arms of a woman who was not my mother, running from the husband of the woman who was not my mother, staying alive. Time is as it was, and no better.
He was like that, always on the run, and I was sure I would never see him again. And that was okay by me. I did not need him; I only needed to know about my mother. He had a temper that could blow in a heartbeat and he was a stingy, selfish tramp. He never gave my mother anything besides bite marks and bruises that went with an endless heartache. Even as his only child, I knew to never expect anything from him. No toys, no food, no love. He wouldn’t give me anything, especially the shirt off his back. He wouldn’t give me his belt, either, even if he had two. He would sell me the second belt and then when I wasn’t looking, he’d steal it back to sell it to someone else.
The pharmacist was a short man who looked like my father, or rather what he would look like if he shaved and wore glasses, brushed his hair to the side and held a steady job like a person in white who fills those brown bottles with pills or medicinal liquid. I walked up to the counter and cleared my throat very loudly and asked the pharmacist, excuse me but could you tell me where Holy Ghost Cemetery was. He told me where it was and told me that if I came back at thirty minutes past four, he would drive me there as his wife was buried at Holy Ghost and he would like to visit her.
How can you visit her, I asked, if she is dead? He looked at me and cocked his head, then squinted his eyes and smiled. “Just be here at thirty minutes past four, if you want a ride.”
I sat in the park and waited. I could smell the coolness of winter, the thinness of the air. When someone walked towards me, I imagined that it was my mother or my father, coming to tell me that they would take me home. A different home this time. This home would be clean and have flowers in vases, just like the ones in the visitation room at Maple Grove, and a large Sycamore in the front yard. There would be no fighting, and I would have a nice bed to sleep on and we would have plenty of food to eat. My mother would hug me, gently, and say that she didn’t want me to run away, that I didn’t need to be scared anymore. Not of anything. She would hold me close. Everything would be okay, she would say, I didn’t need to steal or beg, and I didn’t need to cry. That is what I dreamed about when I allowed myself the chance, but the men and women who walked towards me were not my mother or father. They were strangers and none of them stopped. Strangers no better, strangers no worse.
The pharmacist drove a car so beautiful it made my head dizzy. I had never known anyone who owned a car, so I had never actually been inside one. The pharmacist had to come around and open the door for me. I crawled in and marveled at all the things inside — there were things everywhere, coming from the front, and the floor and the sides. The thin, circular steering wheel and the gearshift, the pedals like little feet and the dashboard looked like a large kitchen counter. It smelled of elderberry or something very sweet, I could not place it. It was a Buick Country Club Coupe, he said, and he had bought it just after his wife had died from a disease in her heart. She had been sick during the winter and in the spring, as the sun shone through the windows for the first time in months, he told me that she closed her eyes and with a smile on her face, took her last breath. I could see his fingers clutch the steering wheel a little tighter when he told me that and he started the engine and with a jolt, we moved forward. I jerked back in the seat but felt the automobile shake and hum as we moved down the street. I tried to look out the window, but I couldn’t, as my stomach became queasy with every bump and turn. We drove in silence for a very long time, which suited me fine, as I had no desire to talk, or be talked to. As he drove, Mr. — what was his name — never took his eyes off the road and I never took my eyes off the dashboard.
He looked at me as he turned the wheel and the automobile entered the cemetery.
“How old are you?”
“I’m twenty years old, sir. Just had my birthday.”
“You don’t look like you are from around here. You live here or you just passing through?”
“Oh no, sir. I was born here, and I live here too.”
“Who’s here? At Holy Ghost?”
“Do I know your family? I know a lot of people in this town, or at least their ailments. What did you say your surname is?” he asked, as we drove up a winding path.
I looked at the pharmacist. I hadn’t used my last name in years. I was always afraid of what kind of trouble it would bring, as it always brought something strange. Old men at Maple Hill would ask me questions while they played cards, about my name, my history, all the while never looking up from the hand they were holding. All that information was in my file, I would tell them. I tried to forget the name, forget I had the name. I had lied and told the woman at the boarding house that my last name was Grove. I couldn’t think of anything better, so quickly.
“I didn’t say,” I said.
The pharmacist looked at me sharply, his brows furrowed, as we stopped suddenly in front of a large white statue of a bird, its wings outstretched in mid-flight. Clutched in its claws, the bird held a banner with the name BORISLAVOV. The pharmacist got out of the car and walked towards the grave. He bent down and wiped the thin blanket of snow off the stone. It read, PRAVDA, WIFE, 1894-1930. The cuts in the stone still seemed fresh and caught the light from the setting sun. I could smell death all around – the graves, sure, but all of the ground, the trees, even the air. When I looked up to the pharmacist, his hands were pressed against his eyes, trying in vain to keep the tears in. Suddenly, his face began to change, his features started to grow large and get longer. His skin became white like death, his mouth hung open and no sound came out. He gasped as he inhaled once, quickly twice. It seemed odd that he would cry like that, even two years later. I was embarrassed at his weakness, and I turned away.
The air was thin, and I looked around at the various gravestones littering the hills. Gray bumps like assorted waves bobbing in the sea. I didn’t know where to look for my mother. I wandered to the right, looking at the names, and kicked at the snow with my boot at those flat gravestones sunken in the ground. I flicked my hand at those headstones covered with snow. MOTHER. FATHER. BOYKIN. MORTON. KRAUSS. MURPHY. DICASSINI. RUTHERFORD. I kept saying my mother’s name in my mind, so I would not forget. I repeated her name, her full name, as I walked. It would probably take me all night, and all the next day, to find her. I wasn’t sure I had the energy to find a dead person, even my mother.
“Who’re you looking for?”
“Ada Grace Cotney,” I said, before I had a chance to catch myself. I looked up at the pharmacist. It had slipped from my lips, but I sensed the man would not harm me for it. Maybe he could help me find her, maybe it would be okay.
“Ada Cotney?” he asked.
“Father always called her Ada Grace.”
“You looking for Ada Cotney? That’s your mother?”
The man started to walk away from me. I followed him, but his stride was very long, and I hurried to keep up, all the while looking to my left and right, trying to make out the names of the dead.
“Over here, over that hill by the fence is the part for those buried by the state. For those too poor or those who died in —”
The pharmacist began to walk in circles, leading with his head craned in front of him, making grand loops. I looked in the other direction, stretching my neck as the pharmacist was doing, making my head bob in front of me.
“Over here, boy,” the pharmacist called out.
“Here is what you are looking for.” He motioned for me to come and then knelt down and wiped the snow aside. When I stood next to him, I looked down at the simple, small grey slate. COTNEY the stone read and beneath that, JOHN. That is all it said.
“That’s not who I’m looking for,” I told the man.
“Yes, it is.”
“No, that is my father’s name. I am looking for my mother. Ada Grace Cotney.”
“She ain’t here, my friend, but he is. I hate to have to tell you this, but she killed your father, murdered John Cotney years ago. Slashed at his body in the kitchen of your home, screamed until the neighbors rose from their beds and waited in the streets, outside her house, afraid to get any closer. No, my friend, you won’t find her here. I would reckon she’s in prison somewhere.”
“That is not what happened.”
“Somebody should have told you, surely.”
The man shook his head, but I told him that wasn’t what I had been told.
“That is not what I know to be true. That is not the story the man and woman at Maple Grove wanted to me to write down,” I said. “That is not what happened.”
The pharmacist breathed in deeply.
“I’m afraid it is. I’m sorry to have to tell you all of that, but you have to know it. I wish it weren’t but it’s as true as a straight line. I remember the newspaper report said she was covered in blood, but she never cried. She just kept muttering, ‘I’m tired. Let me rest.’ You should have been told that. Someone should have told you long ago. I’m sorry to have to tell it to you. I really am. It’s just hard to forget a story like that. It was probably ten years ago, now that I think about it. It really stuck with me because, well, the town is pretty small after all, and you see, I knew your mother. I was still new back then, and she used to come in for some elixirs. She needed things for her nerves, and she was really just very quiet, very shy. Though, she did seem, well, kind of tired, there at the end, once I thought about it.”
I walked away from the pharmacist.
“Hey,” he called after me. “Hey, are you going to be okay? Do you need a lift back to town?”
I kept walking, back up the hill and out the gates. I remembered the route the pharmacist had driven and assured myself I could make it back on my own. It took me a few hours, but I arrived back in my room by the evening and I lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Thin shadows began to pull together into solid forms darting back and forth and one started to come towards me. I rolled over and fell asleep.
When I woke up, I looked out my small front window to find the streets covered in a new layer of snow. There were no cars, no buggies, no mothers with babies, no men in suits scurrying. The street was silent and calm. I pulled a chair next to the window and watched as Hudson Street began to come to life. One man walking and then the milkman and then two cars, and then another man and three cars. Pretty soon the street began to vibrate with movement and life. There were people walking from the left and the right, crisscrossing the street, cars and wagons. It was dizzying to watch all that motion and swirl. I stood and got dressed in my oversized and too-small clothes and made my way down the front stairs. The house was dark and quiet. There was no screaming from my landlady that morning, no yelling, and no pans being thrown. I walked into the morning and made my way to the butcher shop. I knocked the snow off my boots at the entrance and walked up to the counter. The butcher reached out with both hands and rested his fists on the case and looked at me.
“Excuse me, sir,” I said, “I am looking to inquire if there is a possibility for me to get a job here.”