It started in West Virginia; or was it DC? She called herself Lexeme in West Virginia, maybe that was it. This felt like a Lexeme problem. They usually felt horrible. That’s why she switched to Verity. Verity was the kind of girl who didn’t make bad choices. But Verity couldn’t last. She was trying out Karen again, and Karen shivered in the steamy bus slogging through the winter rain.
She pushed her pack further under the seat.
Karen hadn’t been Karen since she was eighteen. Her parents expected her to go off to college; her perfect older sister went to college. She visited her sister once— felt invisible there—saw how hard her sister worked. She wanted none of it. She couldn’t see the payoff; it seemed like too much work for no apparent benefit. So, she left on her 18th birthday, searching.
She spent three years on the road: from gatherings and camps, shelter to co-op, last year: a squat in Portland. She was Bree, Callista, Lexeme, and Verity. She liked to think that each represented a different facet of her personality. That’s what she told people. Bree had an accent and claimed to be from Ireland. She wore her hair red. She wasn’t Bree for long. Bree couldn’t survive a beating she took from a tourist frat boy at Bonnarro when she told him, “no.” She left there bruised, battered and Callista.
Karen touched her cheek then pulled for her stop. She braced her back to pull up her pack. A kind faced yuppie supported its weight as she dropped her shoulders under the straps. She smiled her thanks but it was a fake smile. She knew why he drew back so quickly. She knew she stank. She hated it. Her dreads needed a shampoo. She sweated constantly when she wore her pack. The bus stopped at the corner in a quickly gentrifying SE neighborhood. It was so clich
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