She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen the stars. All the streetlights here dimmed them and limited her view of the beautiful night sky. This is what Dana wanted when she moved to the city, to get away from any semblance of that old small-town existence.
Now she only wished to be back home again.
The move came from a hard decision to buckle down and take a lower-paying job in the city. A means to an end — poverty would be temporary. She knew the only way to break through the glass ceiling came by finishing her degree. No supervisor could overlook her for a promotion again.
Dana swallowed her fear and told herself it wouldn’t matter that she knew no one there. A fresh start will do you good, she thought.
Being invisible among thousands of people did a number on her confidence, and life became too impersonal. She faded into the background. People are too busy to meet a stranger, too suspicious to take a chance on someone they don’t already know.
She quickly realized it was every woman for herself at school. A large university is no place for an intimidated non-traditional student to make new friends. She took it for granted she’d meet like-minded individuals but quickly realized she’d have to make her own way. No one else offered to show her the world, so she started her own search.
She tried online dating, followed all the cautionary measures to meet in a public place and tell someone where you’d go. Safety first and all that. Most importantly to not set her expectations too high. She encountered socially anxious but nice nerds and perverts who breathed heavily on her voicemail or expected sex as payment for company.
Fate cast the next blow when she met a friend of an acquaintance at a club. First vouched for as a “good guy,” the classmate knew nothing of his criminal record since they’d last seen each other. Dana fell for him too quickly, as she was wont to do, and ignored the red flags that otherwise warned her. A nasty amphetamine habit spurred his compulsive lying. The last of his looks and charm the meth hadn’t destroyed, unfortunately, salvaged his believability. He not only took her credit card and apartment key but some of her dignity as well.
Being young, naïve and too trusting, it came as a revelation to learn she could no longer take people at face value. Disillusioned and emotionally bruised, she sat on her balcony awaiting the onset of the new millennium. Gunshots sounded in the distance — the urban version of celebratory fireworks — while feelings imploded within her.
The rest of the world feared the end was near if computers couldn’t transition to 2000, that time would stop if the digits didn’t reset. They were wrong.
She made a mistake moving here.
Hope brought her, but loneliness found her instead. Gazing out at the sky, Dana searched for those imperceptible stars. She looked down at the concrete below and imagined falling off her balcony, landing in a fatal splat on the sideway, and no one claiming her body. Her family might never know if something like that happened. Maybe no one would care.
She imagined someone at the city morgue finally discovering her identity and sending her back home.