The following story took place yesterday afternoon, somewhere in Minnesota. The temperature was 29 degrees below death.
Nineteen-year-old Chloe parked her piece-of-junkola car outside the high-school gymnasium. The car spewed blue exhaust and purred like a 68-year-old smoker. The parking lot was encrusted with snow.
Chloe is an orphan. She was raised in foster care under hard circumstances. She was the quintessential hard-luck case you grew up with. Underprivileged. Underconfident. Quiet.
After graduating, Chloe has been living on her own in Minneapolis. It’s been difficult. She’s never lived alone before. Each month has been a financial hell. She works two jobs and makes minimum wage at both.
She was engaged, but her fiancée cheated on her. This rusted ‘92 Toyota with the duct-taped bumper represents the nicest thing she owns. And it only runs on days of the week beginning with R.
Chloe trotted across the parking lot toward her small-town school, pulling her coat tight.
Today was the annual high-school alumni lunch, a rural tradition. The hometown graduating classes return to their alma mater to participate in
the Christmas hoopla and eat hotdish—whatever that is. It is a kind of old-world tradition that wouldn’t survive in, say, New York City.
The teachers fawned over Chloe like they always have.
“Oh, Chloe, we’ve missed you!” said one.
“Chloe!” said another, “you’re taller than the last time I saw you!”
“Chloe, gimme a hug.”
Chloe, Chloe, Chloe.
They love this girl. Always have. They haven’t seen her since she sat in their classrooms, diagraming sentences, solving for X, and learning more than anyone ought to know about the cosine.
After Chloe graduated, several teachers have tried to stay in touch with her. They call each week, they send cards, they even stop by her apartment sometimes.
Sadly, Chloe usually avoids them, and she never returns calls. Chloe doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her. And, as I said, she is 19.…