In Celia's new facility, a woman with a neck tattoo relates a hilarious story about stabbing a man in the neck with a crack pipe -- "I'm not using this ... except to kill you, motherfucker!" -- because for half a rock he wanted to fuck her with a mannequin leg with the shoes still on it. "Fuck that," she says, and I heartily agree, but Celia's eyes are bugging out almost as far as her lunch has made its way up her throat. This is the girl Celia needed to meet. The group leader, who has been just as horrified and disgusted by Celia's horror and disgust as she was with the story, pronounces her name like in Italian, her correction of which crack lady finds ridiculous: "Ain't we fancy?" The guy tells her to leave the fucking attitude at the door: "We don't play that shit out here."
And I mean I'm all for dismantling the eighteen levels of bullshit that make up Celia's outer carapace, but doing it this way... At some point won't it just, you know, kill her? No, she's an immovable object, exquisitely disciplined, hard as nails and twice as sharp. The world has never stood a chance with Celia Hodes, which is the problem and always has been. The smarter you are, the crazier you get to be without anybody stopping you: she needs to die to get anywhere. You can't miss the bear:
He thought of certain human hearts, their climb/ Through violence into exquisite disciplines/ Of which, as it now appeared, they all expired.
Back to the back room, the tunnel, the truth. You already know. Guillermo hustles girls out of the tunnel, with their purses and eyes wide. I think they're speaking Russian. He grunts at Nancy, hisses, bitches about changing the combination. She spits back that she's just putting money in the safe, with which he can't argue, and then looks at the girls. Looks right at them, finally. ("Is she buying us?" they ask. Yes. Buying and selling and standing right there.) "More cousins? You girls okay?" He hustles them out and into the van, and tells her the day is over: go home.
The tunnel has always been this: Wonderland, where nothing is true and everything is permitted. Lacey died down there; Nancy was born again. Every night when you go to sleep, that's the tunnel that you go into. All the things you can't look at in the sunlight.
Nancy locks the door of Maternity World behind her, and walks out into the San Ysidro strip mall, where everything's on sale. She waves to another storeowner. She's just a girl. She's just a girl in love with a boy.