In Seattle, dimes sprang up everywhere, on the sidewalk or in the clothes dryer, but when I needed thirty-five cents for the public payphone at Filbert Summer Music Academy on Vashon Island, Washington, my jeans held one quarter, a matchbook, a McDonald’s receipt, and my pack of Camels. It was morning. Sun blared through the needles of the scrawny fir tree huddled around my phone booth and a squirrel zagged the nearby baseball field, fiddling with its mouth. The air felt sodden with oil. Hash browns? My Accutane pills were missing. Mom needed to ship them ASAP.
The dermatologist, a woman with skin so smooth and white you wanted to lick it off like meringue, had said the Accutane would straighten my back. Psychosomatically speaking. It would not delete the D-minuses from Algebra or be my wingman at this year’s eighth-grade dance. Accutane only cleared acne. The intangibles came later, built on the boost I would get from looking in the mirror each day and saying, “Eddie, you look amazing.” Hopefully she was right. Soon after she’d prescribed the Accutane, two months ago, the zits ballooned, and just within the last month, I’d seen the dermatologist twice for cortisone injections, once for this growth inside my nostril, once more for a hard globe on my eyelid.
When I checked my jeans again, a voice said, “Good morning.” It was a girl with a backpack and snarled hair and a big nose. Dreads straggled down the front of her dress, which was basically a bag with limb holes.
“Sure is early,” I said.
“I am an immortal nymph of the woods,” she said, raising a hand. A tuft of ginger hair nestled in her armpit. “Therefore I slumber not.”
I felt embarrassed. At Kellogg, my school in Seattle, theater kids sat at the cafeteria table near my buddy Jim and me. They talked in squeaky British accents, like, “Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour draws apace.” When Jim laughed, his neck jiggled.
“Nice to meet you,” I said, “got to make this phone call so excuse me.”
“It’s a joke? My name’s Pearl, man. Do I know you?” She flung her arm out like I should kneel to kiss it.