Fluorescent lights in the bathroom bring out in me a kind of essential ugliness like the Twinkie-eating tweaker at the a.m./p.m. register at five in the morning with her badly dyed hair and acne scars and sagging face and smearing eyeliner. I open my wallet and give her what's left of me for a half-filled cup of sullied coffee and a bag of Chips Ahoy. She looks at me long, checking the time and my eyes, maybe for redness, maybe for somebody's soul. Looks at me with my badly dyed hair and face broken in with the marks of giving up.

At five in the morning I hate myself and my face and my orphan-Annie hair and my swooning optimism and my rested-assurance that in spite of my zombie appearance and gross incompetence, it will be all right, because at five in the morning I've given up believing in anything but coffee and fishnet stockings. And from the hood of my car the glint of his eyes flecked with tears and the obligatory unfelt goodnight kiss. And the moon retreating. There is no sun in Oregon this time of year but a chilly ghost running her fingers across the morning sky, painting it lighter and breathing in the fog.

Fluorescent lights in the bathroom at a.m./p.m. sing like angels at five in the morning a song to make you wish you were dead, or beautiful, or competent at something other than heartbreak. The tampon machine is jammed with Canadian money and the last thing I need is a pina colada condom this morning or to record, Sharpie in hand, my pain in the wall. But I buy one and do so and drink my coffee on the front stoop and wait for nothing, hope for nothing, swinging like a reed.

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