By Katherine Gotthardt In the dream, my bed is cemented in a storefront, and I, no control over window treatments or shades, curl in the corner of strangers’ eyes, try to sleep. When I wake, I wonder what that was all about. Was it because I furniture shopped with my adult daughter last week? Checked out suits in the strip mall, wondering who left greasy prints on the glass, and were the cashiers earning more than minimum wage? I know I’ve earned less in my life, and wiping dirt from the world was exhausting. Someone smeared bathroom walls with lipstick, hoping it looked like blood. Oh, wasn’t that a hoot? We were grateful it was only makeup. Another moved the female mannequin, this time to men’s, repositioning it with a second dummy, lewd display of lowbrow humor. Okay, maybe that was a little funny – until the boss accused us, threatening our scant paychecks, demanding to know the culprit until we caved, pointing fingers to save our crowded apartments. The least popular, Irene, was let go. Unable to live on Social Security, she nested in my long-term memory, bits of rag and plastic grocery bags. Nothing worth recycling. I used to believe if I bought enough, I’d have something to give my kids when I died, something like a legacy. But my mattress came from Salvation Army, my desk from my childhood home, living room loveseat moved from address to address until I found a place with room for a crib – wide hallway, just enough space for me to pass. I painted the cracked slats with primary colors, bought a mobile of musical fish. To a warbled tune, they circled the face of my infant, she, bewildered at being brought into consciousness, not that fish could fly. Paying for groceries, her in the secondhand car seat, I wondered if she was ogled, or was it me, shuffling worn food stamps. I never could figure them out, self conscious as I was, sweating under heat of judgment, holding up the line. Returning to my rusty car was a relief. Home again, I carried my baby and milk up in the same hand, keys chattering against cans of formula, dropped bundles as I fumbled at the loose lock someone had jimmied before. See, nothing is private when you’re poor. It’s no wonder I dream of storefronts. No wonder the thick miasma of insecurity follows me. No wonder I buy more, tip big, pick up trash in public restrooms. Clean counters splashed with thoughtlessness. I wash my hands with borrowed water. Dry them in the mouth of powerful air. Rub them pink in anxiety. Exit back into the present.