Kyra’s got a face like a friendly handbag: loose, tough leather with a lopsided smile that can zip closed if needbe. Doesn’t usually need to be. She’s been doing electrical long enough that her tar-stained overalls and smoker’s laugh are a kind of calling card. They echo in the walls of a thousand houses around here. Maybe not a thousand, but it feels like that sometimes. Skin doesn’t get loose and tough in a hurry, but it seems to Kyra like she’s always in a hurry. Not that anyone else would see it. She laughs easy, and decades of cigarettes have dropped her voice into a register that renders ball jokes with perfect fidelity. She never shows up at the job ’til ten and she never stays past six. She knows a little bit of everything – she can thread pipe and plane boards and throw plaster on the drywall. And she always has time to step away from the conduit she’s laying and make any of those things happen. It’s why she’s a journeyman now, or a journeywoman, as some of her guys joke. It’s why she works with the same guys year after year.
Winter, she hibernates in her apartment building up Central. Smokes spliffs and drinks from 24-packs in a ratty La-Z-Boy too comfortable to replace, even if she’s got the money. Slowly exudes the dirt and oil from beneath her calloused fingernails as she listens to records. Summer hits the ground running, right around the point her hands look clean again, her crew snaps together like magnetic beads from whatever holes they’ve been hiding in and she’s embedded in a sauna of huge steel-roofed garages and brand new condos with no air conditioning yet. She bleeds sweat at those times, even as fast as she runs conduit. She can calculate resistances in her head and they say she’s got some kind of truce with electricity – where other electricians flip the breaker and pray, she flips it and smiles. Domesticated lightning is a funky thing, she says, but it’s just that: domesticated. She coaxes it through circuits like a showdog.
Kyra is the only woman she knows, really, other than her Mother (God rest her soul) and her brother’s wife, and her brother’s wife’s friends. Figures it’s better that way, though she wonders. Wonders if maybe the constant “tool” puns and the “that’s-what-she-saids” and the apocalyptic beer runs are eroding some part of her brain she was once gifted with. No one’s made a move on her in god knows how long, and is it because she’s built like a farmhouse or because she kicked the last guy who tried straight up the crotch and into the hospital? Or is it some kind of aura of testosterone that floats about her? She’s never had trouble getting what she wants, she’d just like it to come to her every now and again without her asking. Still, one of the advantages of being a woman in this sea of masculinity: she can wear overalls, and spit, and smoke and talk balls and boners, and still have the power to drop an anvil on the conversation at any time with a well-placed period.