17: Amelia Grey

Amelia Grey could make a modest income selling her hair for wigs, but she donates it to cancer kids instead. Right before she cuts it off every two years she starts getting more and more people walking up to her on the street, offering her modeling gigs and acting jobs. The homeless men are so sweet, too. Amelia has hair like spun gold, and when she grows it long it falls in gravity-defying coils around her upside-down teardrop face. It clashes horribly with her orange crossing guard uniform.

Every weekday morning during the school year Amelia wakes up at 4AM to get to the crossing that she guards. She’s only just turned thirty and she wakes up at a time she used to think was reserved for old people. It’s been four years, and so she’s used to it by now. The darkness used to upset and confuse her internal clock. She used to resent feeling sleepy at nine PM. Now she’s addicted to coffee and can’t sleep past six if she wants to. Her day-glo orange uniform hangs in the closet next to the motheaten formal dress she wore to her brother’s funeral.

Amelia has a body that could stop traffic, if she dressed for it, but she relies on her standard-issue stop sign instead. Four years and she doesn’t know any of the children by name. They’re always changing, and it’s not as if they really talk. The parents all thank her for doing what she’s doing, but through the sleepiness and the morning fog no one ever seems to recognize her. Day after day she patrols the same intersection, slowing a metamorphosing torrent of minivans. Some days she cries, but usually after work, during the five-mile walk home.

Amelia works as a waitress at Denny’s, taking shifts at odd hours and abusing the free coffee. She takes night classes at community college. She always seems to be one semester away from graduating. And everything she does is subordinated to her crossing guard schedule. Sometimes she sleeps sitting up in bus stops, but only when her hair is too short to draw much attention. Life for Amelia is a series of crossings, and the only thing she can do is make sure they are safe ones.

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