You aren’t yourself and what a good idea that is. Yourself can’t make the money tot up, one big number on top of another, but you have to. An ice cream scoop is what this totting reminds you of. Shuffling foreign money on slips and into windowed envelopes reminds your deskmate of sandwiches, especially the club, its stacks. This is before lunch, when you get to erasing the carbons. Your deskmate eats regularly, even diets. She doesn’t have to save the pat of cheese the cafeteria so generously and Frenchly adds to any free hard roll, she doesn’t save that pat for dinner. She has the club.
Typed, your new name has the bold, made-up quality of not enough syllables.
Every bank morning you are not the someone else who comes through the door answering to someone else’s name. Who’s that? You stop and then scowl like you are hard of hearing first thing in the morning, lost to that name. And number. The number is the important part, you have to have someone’s number to get paid to tot up, it has to be on your card. Numbers beget numbers, even foreign ones.
Beget as in begotten, as in sex.
Sex has much to do with what you are doing. Sex with a safe kind of guy, the kind who flees to a country like this to be safe, so he doesn’t have to kill someone in a country’s name, no matter what his number. A friend of his told him where to safely get you a new name and number, where they had extras. Go on, you said, how could there be extras? Killing anyone didn’t seem appropriate, given the fleeing. But it seemed numbers were just around for people and if you needed one, you could have one, you could make money tot up for both of you.
When you are really hungry, lunch comes to mind first and not him and his hot hands. He’s at home, waiting for work, the kind on docks or in ditches where everyone is called Pierre or maybe Mack. For you to do that work, someone would surely ask your name and what did you think were doing and then what—you would have to leave the country without him. You take a new name and work while he waits.
Typed, your new name has the bold, made-up quality of not enough syllables. His has many. You would not take his for yours. It would be a mistake. You are not that in love. You’re trying not to make that mistake. Rarely do you put down your whole new short name, mostly you initial. Though you are always mistyping those initials. Carbons have to be changed then, pages of carbons, changes as hard as removing the mayo from a club sandwich, or a scoop saved from the floor, changes that lead to numbers in reverse and more carbons to be erased over more carbons, which always leads to lunch.
You are thinking of lunch and ham in sheer slices, ham you can see through to go with the cheese, cheese piled so thick it’s a wall, there’s not even a peek through the portholes of Swiss, the one cheese they give away in square bits so some bits are all hole and you have to pick through the stack, you are typing your way toward lunch, thinking of lunch, your mistakes carboned and carboned, when your initials come to the attention of someone with an actual nameplate aslant on her desk. A woman needing a plate as if she is going to forget her name, as if anyone might. Woodward. As if all the slips in between the carbons had compressed into planks, into two leaden syllables. Not cheese. Maybe it isn’t even her name on that plate, maybe she too has someone else’s name.
This woman asks to see you. She is on the phone when you enter, talking in the language they use here that you had only one year of, familiar only in the way it rattles by, a weak carbon of sounds you once knew.
She puts a pile of paper on the floor and motions for you to take a seat in the chair beside it.
The woman wears delicate shoes, shoes no one in this climate would wear past October, a sign that she does not care about this climate, that she cares more about her shoes, that she loves them. A sign that she is like you, who cares about love more than anything else.
Or else someone bought her the shoes for sex.
You are about to say what nice shoes they are when the woman reminds you how short the time has been since you first arrived—two weeks—and how short your stay might be. You hear this with the ice cream and the club sandwiches on your mind, released into your brain as soon as you’re addressed by someone else’s name as if lunch were the natural right of that other person. Too many mistakes, says the woman.
Someone else made them, you say. Someone with the same initials.
The woman’s shoes tap. I can hardly make the numbers out at all, she says. She shakes her head in short jerks. You can tell this someone else that a sum this great has to be accounted for, has to be taken seriously. En fin.
You need the money, you need the money, you need the money. You type that rhythm out in hate, in hunger, in your head, as you leave her office. It is only today and today and today with this other name. No one wants you to be this person forever.
You take your cheese with its free bun, you take two buns and their holey cheese past the steaming soup, the thick meat slices in their rows, the chocolate milk dispenser and the cashier who nods at you every day when you open your hands with a bun in them. This time she nods at your two buns. You take your two buns to sit outside on the concrete steps while the others eat together in the cafeteria. For fresh air you tell them, but it is really so cold outside. You take your two buns outside to slip them inside your purse.
Some of the others leave the building for lunch. They sling on coats, they talk while they walk away. Maybe someone with the name you are using is walking out too, is working here with another number, her own number given to you, but she’s still stuck with her own name. What a coincidence you would say, seeing a name tag at a meeting, we have the same name. How’s your typing?
At least he knows your name. Last night, bending over the bed to collect a pillow, your legs apart, he touched you. You weren’t hungry then. Starving was beside the point. He hadn’t called you anything. He should take someone else’s name himself to be safe, that’s what he’s saying. It isn’t like a real wedding.
You take the two buns out of your purse. Hunger is not temporary. Hunger is now. Which is all the time. Love is a kind of hunger but maybe this is just sex, the club sandwich. Love is what you want. Hunger is what you have. He is waiting at home for one of your buns with its cheese and its holes.
You eat one bun, and then the next.