SP – The Woman Who Walked Off The Stairs
Written by castor :: [Sunday, 10 May 2015 03:38] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 10 May 2015 10:24]
One of the ad copy points of the line of Shakers clothing line was: Sweat Shop Free. It was on the wall of the entry at the factory wall
But Quan Je often had means to doubt it.
When she was about 14 she had worked in a sweat shop in her native Myanmar for about 6 months. This was different, and a little better. There was a lot of ventilation large windows, and air conditioning such that it was very rarely actually sweaty (though she often came home drenched). The hours where reasonable enough, and for that the pay about two bucks above the minimum wage. They had a decent lunch hour and a radio (though in fairness Myanmar had a radio and at least she could understand that).
But man this was hard backbreaking work that every day or so someone who put a finger in the wrong place and get a needle in the skin. It hurt a lot the two times it happened to her.
She sighed. Quan worked in North Dallas factory making large poofy T-shirts you could screen print. Typically she stitched them, which is something that no one had ever quite figure out how to do profitably, just with just a machine – it was done by a specialized sewing machine, but still a sewing machine. She could do about a shirt every 3 ½ minutes, which was pretty good – there where women who could do faster, but the bosses didn’t complain – she would occasionally see the owner who once nodded at her and smiled and …
She smiled back.
Then one day he came up and talked and her semi dumbly nodded. Dom Vickers was German man and his accent made her very shaky understanding of the English language harder.
Well such was life. It wasn’t her place to complain was it?
That was the night that it had happened. The night she walked off the staircase
Quan walked home from work each day – there was a bus she occasionally took but it would take her an hour to get home rather then 30 minutes walking – she had gotten used to it especially during the night.
The factory was at a top of a hill. Her apartment at the bottom. The roads had been cut to snake around this – but half way up there was a barely lit public staircase between two warehouses to an alley bellow. It was a little dodgy sometimes but that was more drunkenness then danger
The day had had a light rain she saw from the windows, which working indoors affected her little at all. It had mostly dried – but she saw the puddles in the poorly repaired street. Ehh. Maybe fewer drunks. The clouds made it darker ahh well. She walked and she walked and she felt time go by, as so often in her life. Then she went to the stairs and half way down not really paying attention she steeped a foot forward and felt purchase on it, and then another foot. And another. It took her nearly 10 steps to realize that she wasn’t walking on anything going forward above the street.
Then like the coyote she fell.
The ground hurt. Not break arm hurt, but hurt. She felt the wind knocked out of her. She felt a deep bruising that the muscles of her legs, which had taken most of the fall. It wasn’t life threatening. Nothing was bleeding but it felt shocking. Shocking was the word. Just a pure shock of life entering into her system in a way she couldn’t remember feeling. Pain made you know she was alive. And well …
She was alive.
And she wanted to scream but didn’t.
No one to scream to. Just to reflect on the pain for the next five minutes as no one came to help her – not even the absent drunks. Just … her
That at least was usual.
Quan had lived in America for about three years now, escaping worse leaving worse behind that she chose not to dwell on except when the darkness happened. It was overall better. More free certainly though Freedom was a virtue that on a day to day basis you could ignore. More Abundance also. There was plenty of food – even the Asian market that she could find things that reminded her of home, often had more then what she remembered. Once she found herself buying Shakzin randomly because it looked good, which is something that when she was a child she had dreamt of maybe serving at her wedding. She almost never felt hungry. There where weeks when he budget was tight but never that that tight.
The climate was different but probably a net better. The Streets for the most part felt much safer at night when she walked home. Her small apartment had a bathtub that was old but worked and a queen sized American bed though she always had slept alone.
The next step was getting there: a third floor small studio – scarily bigger then a bedroom. But she liked it actually. That at least was a comfort she had. A nice if old bed, a nice bath and after it had happened the thought of both really felt wonderful right now. So good.
But she was still about five blocks from them. So she got up to shaky feet and discovered that yes she could walk.
And tried not to think about what happened.
At least she had an elevator. An other comfort of America.
The next day she ached a lot and felt welts on her body – but well if she could get up she went to work – not that she couldn’t take a day off, but that she didn’t like to be just home all day not earning money. She washed.
Quan – at 28 – when she looked in the mirror still occasionally saw the great beauty she once was, who would attract the men of Rangoon eye to smiles. Soft skin beautiful almond eyes, long black hair coquettish figure. It was still still there or at least visible. Soon she thought it would be if you looked for it, and after that if you looked hard. Life had been hard the last 6 years. They had been very hard. It had left her skin a touched crack dry – her eyes hallow. She had lost weight in some places – not that she was skinny, she had the kind of body than would never be that – but that she had lost weight in some places and sometimes gained and lost it in others. She was still pretty which got to her sometimes. Still pretty.
But no one to share it.
But she could walk okay. Again taking the elevator, she took the bus to work.
There things where. A little slow. Her foreman asked about her slightly lower output and she explained that she fell as best she could, and he nodded. After lunch she felt about 95% and she was able to make her day’s quota though just barely for her.
And she tried not to think about it. It was very odd – so who she could she talk to.
Quan didn’t speak a word of English before she walked through immigration with her uncle three years ago stood blankly as a guy asked her a couple of questions in Burmese and let her through to be a tourist. Fun stuff. Now three years latter … she spoke … maybe 500, 600 words. A bit more. She got that people where talking and could make out some of what they said especially at work – she knew that. But not really. She supposed that it was getting better every year, but it felt maddening sometimes. TV she couldn’t follow. Music was noise – Burmese – a language of tone and a language that she didn’t care about, it made it sound weird.
Huston did not exactly have a giant Burmese community. It was there but the meeting she went to once was very full of doctors and lawyers and she felt out of place. They had a newsletter for Texas whose reports of success kind of troubled her. There was the lady at a store who spoke it who she would talk to … but other then that … not really. Not really.
Mandarin, Vietnamese, Japanese – but well …
She endured. She felt good about that. If honest she was proud of it. Life was shit she got by.
But that night she avoids the staircase.
At night she dreamt – and in her dreams she flied. Flew high above the earth the city the world her hometown all of it so above it. So free … so free to do what she wanted go what she wanted be …
It was beautiful the world was. It was beautiful – just the trees the beautiful trees the life, the oceans all of it. So god damm beautiful.
She woke up with a start and sighed.
And she started to cry despite herself, cry and cry and cry cause this damm stupid.
And she pulled the blanket off the bed and looked up at the ceiling.
What had happened?
It was either something was wrong with the stairs or with her.
The stairs was possible. Weird things happened in the world – she didn’t know much about science as such but knew enough to say that. Weird things happened. Something had created something magical in the stairs that made her walk until she didn’t realize she couldn’t.
But that wasn't it.
Not a glimmer of movement
She tried to forget that she couldn’t fly. That was a big block
She remembered the last time she had flied. In a plane from Bangkok. It had been a large metal 747 that felt a lot like a bus albeit a big bus as she sat in a middle row for 15 hours. She did go up to the bathroom and as she did she past a window. She looked down for a moment at the sky bellow. Just down and saw in a kind of early morning light clouds and what looked to be the ocean so far bellow. It looked. And she remembered … but not wanting to get into trouble and frightened of discovery she did her business and went back.
She sighed. She closed her eyes and emptied herself for a second … and remembered the dream.
And when she opened them she was closer to the ceiling.
She turned her head to the side for a second and saw the wall – what a meter? When she fell down again startled by reality
But well smart move it was on the bed, and while the springs shook there was no damage.
She relaxed. For a second. She closed her eyes …
She was flying. Air was above her, air was beneath her.
Opening them. Opening them looking around …
And not falling. That was the key to flying.
She didn’t have wings or helicopters blades. That was true. The air didn’t feel different – the only thing missing was well the support of anything. It was as if gravity didn’t decide to work for her locally.
She thought about how it felt. She didn’t have words in either English or Burmese or even the couple in Spanish to describe it … it felt light as if that meant something. Light and free and wonderful to fly like this.
She flew there levitating a bit for about 10 minutes. It wasn’t like sex or sleep or any of it … not better … but as if a sensation of pure delight had been discovered. As if she had tasted something man was not supposed to taste. She wondered if it was the thought of it, or the thing itself … but it didn’t matter. She was Flying.
Then thought about say turning left to right
The thought of turning. Equaled turning … a little faster then she wanted but by dialing it in she got it making slow turns in the air till she got a little dizzy.
Then the slow thought to of landing … equal landing.
It required concentration but the kind of concentration that you would when thought that in a little bit that it wouldn’t.
She flew back up. And thought about something else. Her landlady’s dogs that where cute and sometimes let her pet them.
She laughed and smiled … and flew down again and went back to sleep as she felt very tired.
The next day she woke up – it was as if a dream. Literally she wasn’t entirely sure it happened.
She got dressed and went to work walking for the first time since it happened on the stairs.
However just about there she noticed something strange. She was just wearing a tank top (well she was wearing pants as well but a tank top). She normally wore a sweater or jacket over it – it got cold at night and the air-conditioning got to her – plus well it offered a touch more protection from the world.
She was still pretty. She had thought about going to that Burmese association and dolling herself up and her hair and her makeup like the old days. She may attract a husband, a rich doctor something. But after what had happened, the thought would cause her to shutter at the prospect of that.
There where still American men who women seemed to be able to pick at random – even the dogs in her factory often had husbands. She knew that in America sex and love could be fairly recreational was the concept though she didn’t have the word in English for it. After all that had happened to her, it seemed very foreign, and though part of her wanted it … so many barriers of entry here.
At work she felt herself strangely paying attention to things. The chattering of her coworkers most of whom where Latinos straight from Mexico a 100 miles away. She guessed about half where some form of illegal – the job almost seemed to be proud of the fact that they turned a blind eye to it – it was ironic she had traveled 3000 miles to do the same.
The chatter was light, and Spanish which meant it was doubly hard to understand(though she had managed to pick up some words in that languages – which she sometimes confused with English words), and she realized she liked the noise. Even the music playing like poppy ballads had vibrancy to it today. She listened as she did about 20 more than her usual tally. It was a good day.
Was it a dream? This was no place to test it. Well she could do something at lunch – but that was silly.
It was around 11:00 however when the boss walked the factory floor again. He did it every week or so. This usually got a smiles and waves. He was popular or at least liked to cultivate the image that he was popular. He spoke Spanish and many of the girls chattered pleasantly with him a bit. He seemed extra happy.
He was a thin man – about as thin as any she had seen. He looked like a hipster though he was a touch older then that tended to imply as if youth was something he cultivated.
She went into her work until he came to her
“How are you [unintelligible] today, Je?”
She looked up and smiled “Good.” she answered using her store of English.
“You [unintelligible] sexy today [unintelligible question or sentence].”
She smiled. And nodded.
“Thank you.” she said.
“You should [unintelligible] more sexy [unintelligible].”
He winked at her … then walked away whistling.
She didn’t quite know how to respond to that.
That night at home she decided … Test it. Test it for real.
She thought about going to the roof of her apartment but there wasn’t actually a way you could do it. Instead she went outside to an alley she knew was empty between parking lots … and
Concentrated. It still felt very fullish, as if she was straining a muscle that she didn’t actually have. As mentioned she didn’t have a great understanding of it all of physics or any of it, but as with the case of any science it didn’t require her to.
But as her foot left the ground as she started to fly – more than in years she laughed. More then she remembered it felt … good.
Then she felt terrified and went down – but she was able to do it slowly.
That she realized was the key. Flying around in the middle of the night wasn’t scary. It was the falling that was scary. And if she could control up.
She tensed and …
Whoosh. In a second she was 200 feet in the air.
She started to spin and felt a touch dizzy.
Control. That was another key. She stopped spinning.
It wasn’t so much instinctual but as her mind processed the commands they became second nature as she tried them. Like turning your head. You just can, And so she did.
Okay starting and stopping – that wasn’t hard. Being precise about where she went and how she moved. That was a bit tricky. The general was easy. If she thought about moving a meter to the left, she could do it. More or less. Starting and stopping … but if say she wanted to fly at 100 kilometers an hour. Stopping on a dime was trickier. There were no real perfect airbrakes. But as she flew around this high it proved acceptable.
And she could fly quickly, she soon discovered. She didn’t have a pedometer (though that would scarcely help) to tell how fast – but well fast. As she pushed herself she guessed it was a least a couple hundred kilometers an hours. She flew quickly over the city trying to avoid the downtown when people might see her (though she realized it was so dark that being that high above the ground meant she wasn’t likely to be seen).
In comics you always see Superman flying flat his arms extended. If you where to think of it in terms of how a bird did well or drag maybe there was some sense there. She mainly flew straight up as if her standing on the air itself. She could have done it the right way but didn’t think like that. This felt. Not safe, but something as if she was already going there. Ultimately it mattered very little.
She put on the speed as fast as she an but as she does the air turned not so much hard as buffeted her the air became a bit like jelly and the little spurts of winds became frantic against her. She put her hands over her face, but that didn’t do much. Pretty soon breathing itself became tricky as if the air couldn’t quite get to her lungs – but the problem maybe wasn’t how fast she could travel but just her ability to survive it. She had the thought that maybe her speed was unlimited or close to it. But well …
She slowed a touch. Maybe she could get one of those astronaut suit things.
Eventually she made it out of town into the kind of sparse grassland that was Texas – the land of giant farms that didn’t always grow things … that she realized she hadn’t seen in years if at all. In her time in Texas she hadn’t really left the big city at all except for one bus trip to see her uncle who lived in San Antonio. She hadn’t returned when she realized they had little to say each other. So … what was the point?
It was hard to see in the darkness. That was something she didn’t quite anticipate. Most lights are after all on the ground, and apart from the stars above her and the ground bellow there wasn’t much to the sides – just endless spaces as the one met the other. .but yes it was beautiful so beautiful. So …
Je flew down and touched the ground next to something that looked maybe like a quarry. In any case there were a lot of rocks there. She saw large bolders – as big as a table – in strange formation. She tried to pick one of them up and no go. Well that was too much to ask.
But then she tried thing. She put her hand around a rock this one even bigger. And instead of lifting with her legs … she flew.
She and the rock … well went up in the air. Leaving the ground in a slight wabble that may have been less weight – she doubted weight mattered – but uncertainty. She wasn’t lifting weights … but as the rock flew up in the air she seemed to be holding them …
And as she was about 10 feet in the air she dropped it … and the rock fell down again.
Huh. She smiled. She was an ace bombardier
Well as she was aiming for the spot the rock was before and missed it maybe not so ace … but well practice. And she had a life time.
When she had started at the factory there had been a lecture about lifting with your knees, not with your back or your arms. This felt the same premise. She could lift things. But not necessarily throw them. It was strength of a kind.
This was neat, this was strange and it was wonderful …
But what next? She could keep flying forward in the sky go round the world or all of that, but what would actually happen. She couldn’t live on air – she needed to eat and sleep and all of that. The Air force maybe wouldn’t notice something as small as her, but well she was a woman in a foreign country illegally – what if they caught her? Her uncle had told her they wouldn’t likely send her back but they would lock her up. Or maybe have less compunction of dissecting her. Who really would miss her?
And if they didn’t … well just being a flying woman wasn’t any kind of a life was it … it seemed both wonderful and dreadful. Amazing and miserable.
So she flew back home that night considering empowered and defeated at the same time. This meant something. But she had no idea what.
And it ended up taking close to half a hour to simply found her place. From the sky it all looked the same.
The next day at work, felt dreamlike. Her total count went down 15, which was unusual for her and not horrible but … Her manager didn’t chew her out but he did look at her. She tried to lie and explain that her machine felt tight and sluggish, but that was a lie. She felt sluggish – not so much that she didn’t sleep enough. But as if the world had a weight to it.
Once you see the alternative. She was a cheep seamstress living in a foreign land with no friends or real family who barely spoke the language – or well … she could …
She shook her head.
It wasn’t until the end of the day that it happened.
She was getting ready to leave the work, adjusting her small purse over her shoulder and cleaning up the machine … the room was large and not quite empty … and she felt something on her.
She turned. It was the owner, with his straggly German hair. He smiled at her.
And his hand was on her ass. Groping.
She looked at him. She didn’t want to smile, but that was the only thing she knew how to do. A weak confused smile.
That night she looked in her closet. She owned a couple of dresses, but mostly she had khaki pants she bought at a store and shirts – most of them came from her plant – not quite castoffs, but stuff they sold her cheep.
She was dimly aware of things like superhero’s and comic books. Comic books existed back in her home country but not really the classic man in tights thing. Here there where plenty of posters for superhero movies in this country – it were a thing, and she would sometimes see commercials on TV
She knew the idea was they could fly but no one else could. And now she could fly. And they wore spandex costumes – where was hers …
That when she first started out at the factory she made a lot of spandex shirts was not lost on her. I mean she could make it … but well she didn’t actually own a sewing machine.
Why do it?
Well that was a question. She guessed they where the good guys heroes, fighting bad guys etc. it was something that existed. She could make it out from the trailers. She had a fairly big TV she had bought from a garage sale last year – she would watch nature programs and animals, as they didn’t need much translation to see what was going on what people where saying. Actual story stuff, movies TV was something that she didn’t remember. There where stories, good guys bad guys.
Was she a good guy?
Was she a good girl?
The last thought caused her to shutter.
And what would the hero do. What should she do? The question existed. It felt confusing a mess. She turned on the TV show and watched an episode of a show called [unintelligible] about a man with a green costume who shoot arrows at people. It seemed very confusing mostly people talking about things she guessed happened weeks before, lost in time she could never get this.
This world was so damn confusing, so goddamn confusing. Here with her boss.
She went to the window and looked up at it. It was so tempting … so tempting just to fly away and.
When she saw it.
It was the first time she realized something. Her eyes where very good at night – maybe that was part of it, as if she could see vast distances. It was something that maybe always existed but well you never notice it. Until she saw a small airplane, kind of spasiming in the night sky, as if its engine wasn’t engaging and if …
She opened the window in an instant and flew out …
It was maybe 20 miles away.
She was there in less then a minute.
She could fly fast. Of course she overshot and had to do turn back 1000 feet to get to it as sputtered ever downward.
It was sputtering as if the engine was seizing as if it was moving on winds and gliding down …
When she flew over the top of it and the cockpit and grabbed it.
It was like the rock. It must weigh tons, but as soon as it was in her hands it felt very light, as if she was carrying the clouds herself, as if the world was in her hands.
Did the pilot see the woman in stupid jeans flying over head? She left the thought …
Who was in there? From her perspective she couldn’t see in. And well she didn’t want to. As her father said if you see them they can see you.
But it was probably a good idea to bring it down.
And as she did she thought about it and realized that this was the first time she had thought about it. That doing this was instinctual to her. Learning to use her powers had been very easy all things considered. As was learning what to do with it.
They where over what looked to be an industrial district … and she started to move down, trying a bit to mimic how a plane would fly – probably getting it wrong with wind currents and angles of descent, but trying.
She flew towards and empty street. And slowly skidded the plane on the ground as slowly and simply as possible. She hoped they would put out landing gear or something. No such luck for the small little plan which was probably ruined now. But well. It was simple. She hoped the pilot was okay. .she hoped well she was a hero.
What ever that meant.
And she laughed briefly though she wanted to cry.
A hero who flew away. Flew away from her boss, who was abusing her. Her small little life. Her everything like it.
But she didn’t. She couldn’t.
She flew home. She had English to Burmese dictionary, and that night she sat out to write.
She bought a morning paper the next day and if she couldn’t really l read it saw a picture of landed plane on the bottom of the page with fire department around it huh. She would maybe watch the news tonight to see if there where any stories on it. That at least maybe she could pick up some of the words. She felt … bemused about it.
It was about 10 AM when the manage above he manager came over. “The boss wants to see you in his office.”
She nodded, and got up from her machine.
She walked into the office – which wasn’t in the scheme of things all that large. Her apartment size maybe. Full of tasteful hip furniture and a large couch she noticed.
Vickers was sitting at his desk with his feat up, wearing a T shirt and jeans. He looked … happy. That was a word happy and a touch drunk with a large glass of something.
“Do you want [unintelligible] to drink Je?”
She shook her head no.
He got up and walked to liquor cabinet – looking so very thin. And opened it and poured a drink anyway.
“I do like a good [unintelligible], it’s favorite – a good [unintelligible] drink [unintelligible].”
He drank from it as he walked towards her.
“You’re way too pretty to be a seamstress Je. Do you know that? I know you [unintelligible] speak English that well, but [unintelligible] we get you something else-where we can see how pretty you are on a day to day [unintelligible].”
She looked at him. He put his hands around her shoulder and hugged her, drawing her closer as if to kiss her.
She stood stock still. And pushed him away.
“Oh don’t be like that.” said Vickers “doesn’t be like that at all … you’re so pretty. Pretty girls shouldn’t be so [unintelligible].”
Now was time. She remembered the words she had wrote down. And she stood up in front of him, realizing she was taller then him. That she had power – not the power of flight or strength not that kind, as she remembered the words.
“My entire life. Country was ruled by military. Collection of Generals. I didn’t get that. But one day a colonel saw me. He liked me. He was older man about your age maybe older. Fatter. I saw pictures of him as youth-handsome. Not now. But he threw around his power, his position, and my mother said you his women. They get something He didn’t even marry me, though he wasn’t married. He took me to a large home in the country.”
The words continued
“I was never happy. He was a very cruel man. A very mean man who liked to throw around his powers to me the servants – I was a servant really to. He would yell at me, and when I wasn’t in bed I was expected to wash the floors – and he would yell at them. Showing what a big shot he was what his powers was .He brought in two other girls. One died he kill her in a drunken rage one day.
She paused. “For six years I lived like this. He didn’t beat me everyday but every month or so he would take out a bamboo cane. Then one day I left. Ran away. He found me. He beat me real good that night. Real good. Hospital good. My father’s brother came to see me. He was planning to flee to America – and he got me ticket with his family to do so. So I left. Didn’t say goodbye to him or anyone else. Now I am here.
“Did you see your family again?” said Vickers. Stunned,
She shrugged “I don’t want to see anyone again. I go back to work now or fire me.”
She walked out of the office with several steps went to her sewing machine and started working again as Vickered lowered his head in shame.
She had that power.
Then after about two shirts she thought about what she had just said. Not the prepared statement. His question her response in what half English she had.
That’s what it was. ‘I don’t want to see anyone again’
You didn’t have to live in an Arctic hideaway to hide. You don’t have to fly all over the world or in space or any of it. You just had to be alone.
She could have worked to learn English – she was sure there where classes she could take. Or barring that work to meet more Burmese. She could make friends with her coworkers or people out of work. She could have boyfriends without having them raping her. All of these things could happen. People could enter into her life.
And well …
Lets face it, she had a superpowers – or at least a power. And there was something to do that wasn’t there. The power wasn’t to free her from the world of people … above it all … but to bring her closer to it.
The thought filled her with strange purpose. Not fear. She would have expected fear – certainly over the last week she had done that. But purpose.
Purpose. Good purpose.
But under the foreman’s eyes she went back to work to continue making shirts. As she quietly laughed to herself.
Quan Je continued to work at the factory. Vickers if he had a problem with her behavior never reported it, though two years latter he was forced out of the company by his investors. Je for her part rarely saw him again. She started regularly going to a service of a local Buddhist Temple and through it started taking ESL classes.
And over the next few month there where strange sittings over Huston, always at night. These where somewhat infrequent but strange of a woman flying. There where rumors in the night of her flying down and helping people: a person stuck on a ladder, a man about to fall in the wind, a woman trapped in a building in a fire. Despite this the police and the media thought it was a myth a fairy story – and how often do people really look up at night.
How often do people really look?
Well that was until …