It was a week of dates before I was in a position to see her clothing rack. The loft she owned did not have closets, so instead of wardrobes, she had a few clothing racks from a liquidated department store. That’s where I saw the nurses’ uniforms amidst all the color and design; seven pressed white nurses’ uniforms at the end of one of the racks.
We had just stopped here a moment on our way to dinner so she could exchange her coat for a warmer one, but now I was distracted. “You were a nurse?” I asked.
She looked over at me. “No. I was a gang member. We had a hook. We all dressed as nurses. We were the Angels of Merciless.”
I picked up one of the uniforms, scanning for blood stains or truth. “You were in a nurse-themed girl gang.”
She smiled and said, “Is that a question or just a lame statement? We were a nurse-themed girl gang. Gangs were different then, I suppose. More colorful. A little P-Funk mixed with Marvel comics. We were happy to be allowed to be conceptual, and dangerous.”
I ran my finger down the seam of the uniform. “Where did you pocket your switchblades?”
“Oh, come on. We were totally committed to the role. Couldn’t have knives. Most of the girls had scalpels. Me, I had a sharp 10-inch syringe.”
“You Kervokianed your enemies in the middle of rumbles?” I said.
She laughed. “No. Just stabbed them. It was used like a knife, but in character, always in character. Jesus. What do you think of me? Do you see me as a killer?”
“No.” I said. “I see a director of marketing for a software company.”
“And that’s what I am. Forty-seven years old. Hair dyed past gray. Hips that feel like somebody else’s. And I got a nice guy I’m allowing to take me to dinners. And I got seven old nurses’ uniforms.”
“Isn’t seven a lot? Or did you go through them quickly?”
The smile receded and she said, “They weren’t mine. Except for one. When one of my sisters, my old angels, dies, I take them as my own. I keep tabs just so I will know. So they wouldn’t get tossed in a dumpster somewhere. We don’t have reunions. I make sure they don’t have my number, but I always know when to wear black for the wake and get what’s mine. Ours. The least I can do.
She took the uniform from my hand. Smoothed it out with a soft, caring hand. Then she returned it to its proper home on the rack. She found her leather coat and led me to the Thai Restaurant that she needed to try.
Later. Much later, I was permitted to see her gang tattoo, a bloodied caduceus. But that’s a chapter of autobiography hidden away in another telling.
Dave Macpherson lives in Worcester, MA with his wife Heather and son George.